I laughed, somewhat in disbelief, when the thought crossed my mind that Jesus has been my Lord for over a half-century! After all this time, there is a spiritual discipline that remains a challenge, one that is a basic part of the disciple’s life. What is that? Prayer!
In those 50 plus years my best guess would be that I have read at least a hundred books on the subject. I absorbed principles, found some suggestions about best practices. One was a thin little book called The Hour That Changes The World by Dick Eastman. It was first published in 1978 and remains in print. It is a practical guide to breaking an hour into 12 segments of different kinds of prayer. Another is Foster’s book, Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home.
Jesus’ disciples saw Him enjoying His Father’s love and asked the Master to teach them to pray. He gave them these words which we need to know, heart-deep. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matthew 5 NIV)
If we hope to pray in the best way He says we need to get out the public’s view!
There is an almost irresistible temptation to talk to people instead of God when we have an audience. I feel it every Sunday as I stand to lead in the Pastoral Prayer before the congregation. Sometimes I hear myself “preaching” instead of praying. In that moment my attention has slipped from the One. Jesus says, “Get alone with God to avoid the temptation to perform!” The old Christians talked about their prayer closet. They might have been literal, but in the main, they were just saying that the best prayers are those offered out of sight and hearing of others. Make no mistake, there is a time to pray with others, to seek God with those who also love Him. However, do not forget to be alone with Him.
He also teaches that prayer is not about the words!
Ever been around a person who just like to talk to fill up the air with noise? On and on they go, talking about everything and nothing. Real conversation is as much listening as talking. Jesus reminds us that God would like our attention. We can rattle on and on, as if we must convince Him to act with a summation like a lawyer offers at the conclusion of the case. But, He invites us to rest in His love, offering our needs, pouring out worship, and listening carefully to align ourselves ultimately with His will. Look at this amazing line of assurance – “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”
There really is no easy pathway to a prayerful life. Finding a rich relationship with God is like anything of value – it requires discipline, steady pursuit, and time. Great saints are not born, they are made by daily response to the invitation of the Spirit. If you desire to learn to pray, start today. Take those two basics and build on them. Get alone, quiet your heart. Is there more to it than that? Yes, there is. Prayer is commonly thought of as making petitions of God, and it is. But, it also offering adoration, confessing our sin, giving thanks, meditating on His majesty, a time to use our intellect and times to be led by the Spirit, warrior prayers that shout against the power of darkness, and lover’s prayers that just come close to the heart of our Father.
Do you pray? Will you?
Our word from the Word … “This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:5-13, NIV)
Give me one pure and holy passion.
Give me one magnificent obsession.
Jesus give me one glorious ambition for my life;
To know and follow hard after You!
To know and follow hard after You,
To grow as Your disciple in the truth,
This world is empty pale and poor,
Compared to knowing You my Lord,
Lead me on and I will run after You!
One Pure And Holy Passion
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