Summary: Prayer is essential. Prayer is neglected. Why? Why spend the time and effort to pray?
Pt. 1 - Intimate
Prayer is one of the foundational elements of Christianity. Folks that don't consider themselves Christian and have no intention of ever embracing Christ know that prayer is a basic tenant of Christianity. And yet, as one man said, "Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity none is more essential and yet more neglected than prayer."
A relationship with Christ minus prayer is like trying to grow wheat without planting seed or construct a house without a foundation. You can't separate the two. However, as foundational, essential, and basic as prayer is to our walk with Christ most of the people I talk to fall into one of two categories when it comes to developing a prayer life: a. confused or b. frustrated.
They are confused on how to pray. The mechanics of prayer baffles them. They find themselves stumbling around with seemingly no ability to communicate or to listen. Frustration results from silence, failed attempts at carving out substantial time for dialogue with God, or they have mastered the mechanics of prayer but feel no real connection or communion with God.
Over the course of the next few weeks I want to talk about prayer and let's see if we can't move past confusion and frustration with peeks into Scripture that may assist. I want us to start with one of the most revealing prayer meetings ever recorded in Scripture. In fact, it is the last protracted, pull away prayer sessions that Jesus will have while on earth. It is also a time of prayer that reveals some important things regarding the intimacy of prayer!
They came to an area called Gethsemane. Jesus told his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James, and John with him. He plunged into a sinkhole of dreadful agony. He told them, "I feel bad enough right now to die. Stay here and keep vigil with me." Going a little ahead, he fell to the ground and prayed for a way out: "Papa, Father, you can-can't you?-get me out of this. Take this cup away from me. But please, not what I want-what do you want?" He came back and found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, "Simon, you went to sleep on me? Can't you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert, be in prayer, so you don't enter the danger zone without even knowing it. Don't be naive. Part of you is eager, ready for anything in God; but another part is as lazy as an old dog sleeping by the fire." He then went back and prayed the same prayer. Returning, he again found them sound asleep. They simply couldn't keep their eyes open, and they didn't have a plausible excuse.
III. Intimacy Revealed
Moments before the most painful and horrendous hours of His life Jesus takes time to pray. The famous and oft painted scene of Jesus kneeling next to a rock so burdened and overwhelmed by what is about to happen that sweat turns to blood teaches us three things about the intimacy of prayer that we must know.
A. You are intimate with who you pray to.
Hear the intimacy of this phrase . . . papa! Jesus' prayer reveals the relationship He had established with who He was praying to!
"Those who know God the best are the richest and most powerful in prayer. Little acquaintance with God, and strangeness and coldness to Him, make prayer a rare and feeble thing."
This is why prayer is so important! You can't become intimate with a God that you don't pray to. In fact, you can worship and not be intimate. Go back to the story of Elijah at Mt. Carmel and you see fanatical worshippers who are willing to dance, shout, even cut themselves to show their devotion, but there was no intimacy. Elijah, with no elaborate or overt acts of worship, and a 66 word prayer presses into the heart and hands of God.
The time you spend in prayer dictates your intimacy level with God. Although I do believe in set aside moments of prayer I also believe one of the most effective and missed types of prayer is the "without ceasing" prayer. Daily, moment by moment, minute by minute awareness and recognition of His presence that leads to constant conversation about the common things and complex things of life.
Jesus practiced specific times of prayer. However, you also see the conversational relationship He had with the Father when at the tomb of a friend He simply talks to God, as He hangs on the cross He talks to God, as He walks along a path He talks to God, daily moments of intimacy.
I think too many of us run from prayer, discount the importance of prayer, and separate prayer to a special class of people called prayer warriors because we are convinced that we can never become disciplined in long, secluded seasons of prayer. So since we miss the prayer meetings we assume that we aren't prayer warriors. And in the frustration we miss the daily talks with God! The truth is God just wants to talk frequently and commonly throughout the day!