Wednesday, October 16, 2013

What Is Prayer?

Well that is easy! I close my eyes and bow my  head (perhaps hands or arms folded) and thank God and ask God for stuff I need!

Here is how most evangelical prayers go:

Our Father in heaven...

*list of things I/we am/are thankful for*

*list of things I/we would like*

in Jesus name, Amen

Now there is obviously nothing wrong with giving thanks and seeking blessings. Doing so is good and profitable and of course Biblical. Jesus modeled this style of prayer. I just think we lose the power of prayer by turning it into a formula and losing the intimacy of prayer. Prayer has by tradition been something very formal and divided into a specific sphere.

In reducing prayer to a rote, formulaic process we lose the essence of prayer which is communing with the Living God. When a born-again believer prays, he is gaining a personal audience with the Creator of the universe, ushered into His presence by His most precious and only begotten Son. Think of Isaiah when he beheld the glory of God in  Isaiah chapter 6. He was undone! But when we come before God we are announced by the Only Begotten and granted audience as sons and daughters of the Most High! No one who is not a son or daughter of God has that privilege! Yet prayer is more than just a litany of "thank you for" and "can I have" bookended by invoking the Father at the beginning and signing off with Jesus name at the end.

Like I said prayer is at its most basic level a communing with God or in a sense fellowship with God. It is an open line of communication with our loving Father and our Lord.

There are times when I am outside watching the fields being planted or growing or being harvested and I feel the presence of the  Lord of the Harvest. Or watching the sun set or holding a new baby or wherever I see the Creator's work unfolded. Often when I read and really ponder the Scriptures or read a great book about some matter of doctrine I can feel the Holy Spirit. In so many ways outside of "head bowed, eyes closed" prayer I am communing with God.

In our human  tendency to make checklists are we reducing our fellowship with God to: "Prayer time? Check. Personal devotional reading? Check." I often wonder if our overwhelming religious culture is not only not helping our walk with God but hurting it by making the life of a disciple into a series of checklists. Did I pray today? Did I read my Scriptures? Did I go to church on Sunday and put a check in the plate? If check all of my boxes off, I must be a good Christian! Have we so reduced the Christian life of prayer that it becomes something on a to-do list in the same way that we have devolved worship from a way of life and service to an event we attend on Sunday morning?

Again not to diminish those intentional, intensive times of speaking with God. They are critical and something I often neglect but this isn't replacing one with the other, it is simply (hopefully) recognizing more of our lives are opportunities for prayerful communion with God. The grave danger of trying to create two spheres in our life, one secular and one religious, is that it diminishes the 24-7 reality of the Christian life. A Christian doesn't have "church time". "work time", "prayer time", "leisure time". All of our day is an opportunity to serve God and prayerful communion with God is so much more than blocks of time we carve out to fit God into our schedules. Don't try to find more times to bow your head and close your eyes, just recognize the reality of our lives of constant communion with God all day, every day!

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