“And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35)
Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life. Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father. The Discipline of Prayer brings us into the deepest and highest work of the human spirit. Real prayer is life creating and life changing
To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us. If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives. The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ.
“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). To ask, “rightly” involves transformed passions. In prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after him: to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills. Progressively, we are taught to see things from his point of view.
All who have walked with God have viewed prayer as the main business of their lives. Here is the life-style of Jesus we can follow, “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed” (Mark 1:35).
For the explorers of faith, prayer is not little habit tacked into the periphery of their lives. It is their lives.
Why prayer is necessary? How does prayer work; that is, how can a finite human being enter into dialogue with the infinite Creator of the universe?
I. Learning to Pray
Real prayer is something we learn. The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).They had prayed all their lives, and yet something about the quantity and the quality of Jesus’ praying caused them to see how little they knew about prayer. If their praying was to make difference on the human scene, there were something they needed to learn. The correct way to learn to pray it that our experience conformed to the words of Jesus rather than try to make his words conformed to our impoverished experience.
Perhaps the most astonishing characteristic of Jesus’ praying is that when he prayed for others he never concluded by saying “if it be thy will.” Nor did the apostles or prophets when they were praying for others. They obviously believed that they knew what the will of God was before they prayed the prayer of faith. Their prayer was so positive that it often took the form of a direct, authoritative command: “Walk,” “Be well,’ Stand up.” I saw that when praying for others there was evidently no room for indecisive, tentative, half-hoping. “if it will be thy will” prayers.
There is, of course, a proper time and place to pray, “It is be thy will.” First, in prayer of guidance it is the great yearning of our hearts to know the will of God. “What is your will, what would advance your kingdom upon earth?” Obviously, our goal is to learn always to think God’s thoughts after him, but we all have times when our human desires get in the way. At such time we must follow the lead of our Master who in the garden and prayed, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
To understand that the work of prayer involves a learning process save us from arrogantly dismissing it as false or unreal. I we turn on our television set and it does not work, we do not declare that there is no such thing as electronic frequencies in the air or in the cable. And sometimes we are afraid the we do not have enough faith to pray for this child or for that person. Our fear should put to rest, for the Bible tell us that great miracles are possible through faith the size of a tiny mustard seed.
The inner sense of compassion is one of the clearest indications from the Lord that this is a prayer project for us. The inner “yes” is the divine authorization for us to pray for the person or situation.
II. How to Pray?
We should never make prayer too complicated. Jesus taught us to come like children to a father. Openness, honesty, and trust mark the communication of children with their father. The reason God answers prayer is because his children ask. Further, there is an intimacy between parents and children that has room for both seriousness and laughter.
Jesus taught us to pray for daily bread. Have you ever noticed that children ask for lunch in utter confidence that it will be provided?
Children also teach us the value of imagination. The imagination is a powerful tool in the work of prayer. Imagination often opens the door to faith. If God shows a shattered marriage whole or a sick person well, it will help us to believe that it will be so.
The worship service need to be bathed in prayer. Paul prayed for his people, he asked for his people to pray for him. Your own children can or should be changed through your prayers. Pray for them in the day time with their participation, pray for them at night when they are asleep. Ask Christ to flow through your hands healing every emotional trauma and hurt feeling your children experience what day. Fill him or her with peace and joy of the Lord.
We must learn to pray against evil. We must never forget that the enemy of our souls prowls about like a “roaring lion” seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet 5:8),
We must not wait until we feel like praying before we pray for others. Prayer is like other work; we may not feel like working, but once we have been at it for a bit, we begin to feel like working.
We need not worry that this work will take up too much of our time, for “it takes no time, but it occupies all our time.” It is not prayer in addition to work but prayer simultaneous with work. We precede, enfold, and follow all our work with prayer. Prayer and action become wedded. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.
We have so much to learn so far to go. Certainly the yearning of our hearts is summed up by Archbishop Tait when he says, “I want a life of greater, deeper, and truer prayer.”