Summary: Prayer is a powerful spiritual discipline, which God uses to change us, and to enable us to experience the fulness of the abundant life.
“Prayer—An Intimate Conversation”
Paul writes, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). This is a critical verse in our understanding of how God works in our lives. God gives us our salvation and our relationship with God. These are not the results of hard work. However, there is a distinct difference between being saved and having a relationship with God, and experiencing the full expanse of that relationship—an abundant life.
The abundant life—the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ—takes time, effort—discipline, if you will. A rich and full life is the result of both God’s grace and each of us opening ourselves up to the experience of that grace. For thousands of years, Christians around the world—of every culture and class—have practiced specific spiritual disciplines that have enabled them to live each day in the fullness of God’s grace, love, and power.
We are invited, during this Lenten Season. To incorporate these spiritual disciplines in our lives and see if they actually do make a difference. We have little to lose, in accepting this invitation, and much to gain.
In the second chapter of Acts, we read about the early church. We learn much about what the early Christians considered important as they responded to the good news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. After believing and being baptized, we read that they “Devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bead and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Prayer was not an option to the early Christians. They considered prayer to be a vital part of their daily lives.
Throughout the Bible there are many invitations to pray. Prayer is never demanded, nor are there rigid requirements as to the number, times and places to pray during the day. Prayer is not seen as a good work to gain God’s favor. Rather, it is understood to be an appropriate response to God’s love and grace.
Christians understand that the cross of Christ make available to the individual a personal relationship with God the Father, Creator. This understanding is a dramatic departure from the common view of other religions that God is a distant deity. Prayer is important in a personal relationship with God because it nurtures that relationship. Prayer allows us to speak to God and opens us up to hear God’s voice in our lives.
PRAYER—AN OPPORTUNITY TO ASK
In his letter to the Christians in Philippi, Paul writes that “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Prayer is an opportunity to enter into God’s presence with our needs and the needs of others.
The God whom we worship desires to be intimately involved in our lives. God wants to pour out his blessings upon us. He wants us to overcome adversity, be comforted in our grief, and discover the peace that comes from knowing that God holds us in the palm of his hand.
Along with the invitation to pray and come before God with our requests is also the invitation to not worry. Though worry is the favorite past time of many Christians, it is not the mark of a strong Christian life. In fact, it is just the opposite.
As Christians, we have no need for worry. Worry, in a sense, is a call for prayer. Instead of mulling over the problems that might confront us in the future, it is much more constructive to spend time bringing those concerns before God and placing them at his feet.
PRAYER—A CONSTANT ACTIVITY
Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica that the people should, “pray constantly” (1Thessalonians 5:17).
Constant prayer emphasizes the natural, conversational nature of prayer. Prayer does not need to be limited to a place or set of rituals. As we journey through life with Jesus, we carry on a conversation. At times there is silence, and at other times brief statements. Sometimes we have intimate conversations, discussing our goals, struggles, or need for guidance and discernment.
Constant prayer is living in the presence of God, and acknowledging that presence.
C.S.Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia prayerfully faces the challenges of his wife’s cancer. The movie “Shadowlands” portrayed that struggle and Lewis’ witness to his colleagues at Oxford University.
Prayer doesn’t change God, but it does change us. It opens us up to the movement of the Spirit in our lives, and enables us to experience the abundant life that is ours through the cross of Jesus Christ.