Spiritual Disciplines, Part 4: Prayer
Luke 11:2a So [Jesus] said to them, “When you pray, say….”
I Thessalonians 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
We pray, first and foremost because Jesus told us to. On top of that, we are told to “pray without ceasing.” This can seem overwhelming if we don’t realize what prayer really is. But first, some things that prayer is not.
Prayer is not thinking. We often feel we have prayed about something when it’s never actually left our minds and ascended to the throne. Prayer has a direction! It is our heart, mind, and lips directed toward God! It involves the specific faith that “he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6b)
Prayer is not telling God what to do, or even how to do what we believe He wants to do! We often pray not for what our hearts are genuinely crying out for, but we pray for the specific plan we have in our heads. We need to hear the Lord asking us, “What is it you really want?” instead of praying for a suggested course of action, which is our “wisdom” trumping His!
And then, prayer is not ultimately about what we want. “Your will be done” is part of how Jesus taught us how to pray. This means seeking God’s purposes instead of our own desires.
Lastly, prayer is not a laundry list. Imagine speaking in “laundry list” language to someone you are in close relationship with. How do you think that would work?
What prayer is is back-and-forth communication, which is how we can pray without ceasing. That includes listening, a lost art in our culture, and a rare aspect of the modern Christian’s prayer life. Try listening more, and see what opposition you’ll get from the enemy. It must be worth a great deal for him to put up such a fight!
Lastly, just come into His presence as you are. There is no preparation necessary. He has already come to us. We already have the invitation. We already have worthiness in Christ. And we have the specific call to “come boldly to the throne of grace.” Praise the Lord, there is no good reason not to come to Him in prayer.
Prayer is like any other activity; the more you do it, the “better” it gets. We become more honest, our hearts grow in faith and trust, we become more spiritually sensitive, and we become less self-conscious. Over time, your prayers will change, as you change, as your desires change in mirroring His, and as you become more sensitive to the move of His Spirit. Start with what is real and heartfelt. Open your heart to Him, and watch things grow from there.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for simply receiving me as I am. I also thank You that You are going to change me and my prayer life over time. Lead me to pray according to Your will, and teach me how to listen to You as I pray.