January 15, 2014

The Spiritual Disciplines: Prayer

After a too-long hiatus from Wednesday post about the Spiritual Disciplines, I'm going to be disciplined (har-dee-har-har) about getting these posts up each week.  You're aware, I'm sure, of how many books are available on prayer: types of payer, what prayer is, reasons for prayer, how to pray.  An Amazon search provides a list of options in the thousands!

Pondering this week's post, I thought I could give you a list of books I have found helpful and leave it at that.  You know, because those authors would all be more thorough and eloquent than I can be in a single post.  But some of you will never get around to picking up those books, because you have a billion other things you'd like to read.  I get it; so many books, so little time!  As such, today I want to give you the top things (I think) you need to know about this Spiritual Discipline.*

Heather's Top 3 Prayer Points

  1. We pray to a Person.  When we pray we address and listen to God.  He's alive; He's omnipresent.  He's also able.  Prayer is not sending vibes out into "the universe."  It is communication with the holy, almighty, living God, who has invited us into relationship with Him.  Mind boggling, right?!  Hallelujah!
  2. Prayer transforms us.  Prayer requires that we lay at God's feet all of the concerns, burdens, and fears that plague our hearts and minds.  Prayer also requires that we acknowledge God's worthiness and provision, offering up praise and thanksgiving.  Looking to God, remembering who He is, meditating on what He is capable of, and trusting Him with every aspect of our lives changes us.
  3. Prayer takes practice.  Richard Foster points out that prayer is something we learn to do.  The disciples said to Jesus, "Teach us to pray."  He is our teacher, too.  The more we read the Bible and ask Jesus to teach us to pray, the better we'll get at it.  By better, I mean prayer will become more natural and real, something we do no only at meal times, but throughout the day.

I don't think of myself as a "great prayer."  But I have seen my prayer life change throughout the years as God has worked on my hard heart, teaching me to lean on His grace and trust Him rather than on my own righteousness.  Prayer is not something we're supposed to get right.  It's the way we talk with God.  When I have a friend, I'm not concerned about getting my wording right all the time or putting in a specific amount of time to make the communication "just right."  No, I call or text when I think of them or want to hang out.  I send a word of encouragement because I love them.  Or I get them on the phone and pour out my heart when times are tough.

Relating to God isn't really much different, except (of course) that He has the power to change us from the inside out and answer our prayers in ways our friends can't!  The point of the illustration is this.  Take time to pray, not out of obligation, but to get to know God and to allow Him to help you to trust Him and to get to know yourself.  His availability and power are unmatched!

And He loves you.  (Breathe a sigh of relief as you melt into His embrace.)

Father, like the disciples, teach us to pray.  Teach us our utter dependency on You for all that we need.  Teach us gratitude when we want to complain and trust when we want to doubt.  As we pray, give us hope when we want to despair and confidence in Your love and care for us when we want to crumble in fear.  Thank you that Jesus prayed and taught His disciples to pray.  Remove from our hearts the desire to perform for you and replace it with a strong desire to live in freedom with You.  God, you are so good, so good, to us.  Forgive our sin this day.  Provide for our needs.  Fill our hearts with joy and thanksgiving, so we're ready to love and serve those we encounter today.  Thank you for opening the door for us so we can pray to You.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

*For more thoughts on prayer, pop over to these three posts from last summer that summarize a break-out session about prayer that I facilitated at a women's retreat in the spring.

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