Monday, June 18, 2007

Prayer: A Continuous Power

When I think of prayer there are images that come into my mind. Hands together, a bowed head over a plate of food. Someone on their knees at an alter. A face with eyes closed with head and arms raised so as to be reaching out. A worship service where someone says “Let’s pray” and everyone bows their head and closes their eyes.

I think most people associate prayer with a physical action. But prayer has little to do with physical posture. In fact, the physical posture only has value if it is a response to the posture of our spirit. You see, prayer is simply communion with God through the means He provided, His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s what it means to pray in the name of Jesus. It is recognizing Jesus as the means through whom we are invited to come to God. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (Jn 14:6). To dare to speak to The Almighty, to commune with Him, to pray in Jesus name is to recognize He is Lord. It is to recognize his character. It is to call out for His salvation “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13).

Communion is Communication–not only talking but listening. Read this text, it speaks of talking: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). This one speaks of listening: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (Jn 14:26). Prayer is not only us bringing our request to God but listening, hearing what He says to us “My sheep hear My voice” (Jn 10:27). It is a conversation. God speaks to us through His word and Spirit. He communicates to our spirit and confirms who we are and whose we are “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). We communicate to God through our spirit, heart, mind, emotions, etc. Prayer is how we take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). This communication may be verbal or silent, made with physical movement or just spiritual accent, may happen spontaneously or it can be a scheduled time of purpose. Regardless of how, where, or when, a prayer conversation is a two-way street with come and go traffic, with ebb and flow.

Communion is Openness–requiring honesty. “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Ro 8:26-27). Why not be open to God? We can’t hide anything from Him. Be honest about our weaknesses and that we really can’t even know our own hearts “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). We can talk to God about anything and everything. And should! He knows us better than we know ourselves and He knows our thoughts before we even think them “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all“ (Ps 139:4). This kind of honesty is found in the psalmnist prayer “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Ps 139:23-24)

Communion is Relational. When communion involves a superior to an inferior the inferior must be humbled by the fact that the superior would even allow the relationship. In the case of God, He not only allows it He initiates the relationship. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16). “You did not choose Me but I chose you” (Jn 15:16). We are humbled because He invites
us to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). Prayer is based upon our relationship with God. We relate to Him on the basis of His mercy, love, and grace. Prayer must take these into consideration “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pt 5:5-7). We are invited into His presence. Salvation is relational not religous. Jesus taught us to pray with this relationship in view “our Father who is in heaven” (Matt 6:9).

With this description of prayer, let me propose to you that prayer is not just something we do. Prayer is something we live because life is lived in communion with God. Everything we are and do is to be lived out in relationship with Jesus Christ. How else can we “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17). That means to live your life in an attitude of prayer. Prayer is living in the reality that He is with me no matter where I am or what I’m doing.

Living in an attitude of prayer is to live in a spiritual mind set. To be worldly is to derive my person, identity, pleasure, etc. from anything or anyone other than Jesus Christ. If the scripture forbids something then I’m not to do it. If the scripture commands me to do something then I am to do it. Everything else is an option within my particular relationship with Christ. Prayer is living life in complete communion with Jesus while experiencing the freedom that he gives “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). Prayer is what keeps us living in freedom.

Experiencing prayer as a life attitude gives us the ability to live life to its fullest while assuring us that we are not being enslaved by sins of commission or omission. Now, it’s a good habit to physically express what is in my spirit. To humbly bow our head, close our eyes, kneel, prostrate ourselves, raise our hands, or whatever physical posture we feel led to take. It’s a good practice to schedule particular times that are dedicated to praying. It’s a good exercise in faith to keep a written list of prayer request and how God answered those request. All these are good but living a life of prayer is what will give your life a continuous power of the presence of Christ.

So, whether you are riding your bike or reading your Bible, whether you are smoking a cigar or singing a chorus, whether you are wrangling around with buddies or worshiping together in a church service, whether you are dressed in leathers or liturgical garb you live in a holy attitude of prayer. Communion with God in all situations. Communicating with Him. Letting Him read your life as an open book. Living out your relationship with Jesus. Letting others see Jesus in you.

Prayer is what keeps you sensitive to the mood and movement of the Spirit. It helps you discern the moment and method of the Spirit. An attitude of prayer is essential to living the Spirit filled life. Any ministry (preaching, witnessing, etc.) can be done in the power of the flesh or the power of the Spirit. Prayer is what divides the two. If you want to be a person who lives in the continuous power of the presence of Christ then be a person of prayer.