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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Prayer - take two

So there you go. I guess mainly my drive was to re-affirm my confidence in prayer – something which had been shaken through my time of being ill.

Initially shaken because I just felt too tired to pray, then shaken because when I did pray, the thoughts on my heart weren't always firmly focused on God's faithfulness. They had been, but as time went on they became more of the “God get me out of this” type, and I wasn't sure I should pray those or not. Truthfully, I was a little confused!

I wanted to look at the Lord's prayer – a prayer which has always fascinated me if only for the fact that you rote-learn it in school (perhaps not these days) and Sunday school, but then never seem to pray when you're older, at least not in my experience.

I had this instinct that surely there must be more to that prayer than this. I think I've had that for a while, I remember in exec meetings at uni asking if we could pray it together, and getting cell to pray it together.

But I started by reading 'Prayer' by Philip Yancey. Whilst this book is great and I'd recommend it, it wasn't really entirely what I was looking for when I embarked on the study...it was certainly honest, which is one thing I love about it. And it made me want to pray honestly, to actively give God the thoughts He already knew were in my mind.

But like I said, I wanted to focus more on the Lord's prayer. And also I still had this niggling feeling that practical ideas/strategies for how to pray, how to persevere when praying's hard (although those suggestions are helpful and it's nice to know you're not the only Christian who struggles with prayer) weren't the answer, at least not the answer I was looking for. I knew I had to get to the root of prayer – why we pray in the first place, and remind myself of who we pray to.

So I turned to 'The prayer God longs for' by James Emery White, and 'Prayer and the knowledge of God' by Graeme Goldsworthy. Again, I'd recommend both books!

Goldsworthy begins his book by suggesting that how well we know God will have an impact on how we pray, and goes on through the book looking at this. Firstly he looks at how our knowledge of God relates to the basis of prayer, then the source of prayer, the enabling of prayer, the pattern of prayer and the progress of prayer throughout the Bible. To be honest, I need to read this book again to fully grasp it – I think the main problem is that I didn't read it all in one go, I read a bit on one day each week.

But it was really helpful, if somewhat technical in places. The first couple of chapters and the last one in particular were really helpful, mainly because they just reminded me of how great God is and what a privilege prayer is – this book REALLY made me want to pray, and made me excited about praying. But what I love about it is that it made me excited about praying by showing me who God is.

He reminded me that in the beginning, God spoke, and that a central aspect of prayer is the doctrine of the trinity. As for the basis of our prayers, this is our sonship in Christ. Jesus is the only true Son of God, and so it is only in union with Him we can cry Abba. We share Jesus' sonship – how amazing is that?!

So our prayer through Jesus is heard in the same way as Jesus' own prayers – that knocked me off my feet. Because it means it's ok when I don't pray as I should; it's ok that I can't find the words sometimes or sometimes I find it hard to muster up a prayer. Because Jesus has redeemed me – and that redemption includes my feeble prayers. If we really grasp that, Goldsworthy suggests, our prayers will no longer be half-hearted, but confident.

I love the words of The Vision, especially the last bit where it says “And this vision will be. It will come to pass; it will come easily; it will come soon. How do I know? Because this is the longing of creation itself, the groaning of the Spirit, the very dream of God. My tomorrow is his today. My distant hope is his 3D. And my feeble, whispered, faithless prayer invokes a thunderous, resounding, bone-shaking great 'Amen!' from countless angels, from hero's of the faith, from Christ himself.”

Sometimes, often in fact, my prayers are feeble, and they're not filled with much faith, and they're whispered when I don't quite believe God can answer...but I pray in the name of Jesus.

I've also learnt that developing our prayers is a fruit of our salvation, because prayer is, mainly, an activity of God's people, God's redeemed people who belong to Him because of Christ's work.

I've often wondered about how we should pray in terms of seeking God's will. For example with guidance for things, or for different situations. When praying that I'd get better I wondered whether that was what I should be praying, or whether there was any point if it wasn't God's will. But I've come to see that my focus was wrong.

My focus shouldn't necessarily be on WHAT I pray about – of course I am to pray about things in life, circumstances, situations – but I need to think about HOW I pray for those things. Do I pray for those things in a manner that suggests I want God's will, no matter what I'm praying about.

Goldsworthy asks at the end of one chapter “Are you thinking God's thoughts after Him?” Am I? That was a real challenge for me. When I pray, what is my primary concern. I've already said that of course we should pray for circumstances etc – but primarily I guess I've come to realise that I should be placing a big focus on praying in accordance with the gospel, which means praying in line with the storyline of the Bible, which is creation and redemption – which means praying “Your kingdom come”.

I'll come back to that when I talk about the Lord's prayer. But something the speaker at Portsmouth houseparty said struck me about this as well – he said that each new day is simply another day to proclaim Christ – that's the main reason for each day. Each new day isn't another chance to spend time with each other or accomplish certain things, it's the grace of God giving us one more day to preach Christ crucified. If that's the case, then that should be the focus of my prayers each morning.

Prayer is to the Father, through Jesus, enabled by the Spirit. This is prayer. In and of itself it is nothing to do with me. This is something I definitely need to remember when I'm struggling to pray – when my body and mind are tired, when I'm feeling low, when I'm wondering what the point is. The point is that God is God – that prayer is the result of knowing Him, the way I interact with Him (however I'm feeling).

Goldsworthy concludes his book by looking at characteristics of authentic Christian prayer. I was challenged that prayer should always be trintarian – I need to remember that when I pray. As much as the songs we sing neglect all persons of the Godhead, as we discussed in our Relay day on the Trinity, how often do my prayers? Indeed, it is only through the Spirit turning me to faith in Jesus so as to have access to the Father that I can pray at all! “Prayer is a foretaste of eternity with God”

1 Comments:

Blogger Dave said...

Hi Welshie

Great post about prayer. The Lord's prayer is great and should be one that is said every now and then, even though most prayers should be different each time they are said.

Thanks okay about the blog link, hope you have a great new year eve and have a great 2007!

David

11:42 AM  

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