As a Pastor people expect me to know how to pray. In fact, if there is an occasion to pray, such as blessing the meal, they usually look to me to pray. I have found that public prayer is one of the hardest things for Christians to do.
You get a group of Christians together and they will chat and talk about everything in the world, but when it comes time to pray, they all usually shut up and look sheepishly at each other. Nothing shuts a bunch of Christians up like a call to prayer. Prayer is a downer, and prayer requests are a double downer.
When the Pastor or group leader asks for prayer requests there are the usual sicknesses, the occasional health crises, and then there are the life and death requests. 98% of prayer requests are to bring God into a situation that is threatening, troubling or trying. In most of the situations darkness has already come into the person’s life.
I would like there to be some way we could delight in God in our prayer times. I want our prayer to be means of encouraging our faith and growing in our intimacy with our ABBA Father. Surely Jesus enjoyed the Hours He spent in prayer with His Father! Prayer should be as exciting and as fulfilling as watching a game winning touchdown in the final seconds. We need to see ourselves at the very throne of God, basking in His grace and mercy, fully accepted in His beloved Son. Sure there must be reverence in our heart, there must be respect. But can we pray with the intimacy of a little child talking with his Dad as he tucks him into bed?
My three sons were each about a year apart. My wife and I would always pray with them before going to bed. As soon as they could ask questions, we would play a ‘game’ before prayer whereby they would ask me a question. It could be about anything, but the point was to try to stump me. I don’t remember many of the questions, but I do remember the great fun we had just talking about what they were curious about. This was a special time, a time of laughing, loving and enjoying each other.
I love to see our church folk enjoy visiting and laughing and fellowshipping together. Why can’t we do that around the throne of God? How can we make our prayer times powerful and uplifting? How can we use that time to grow closer together as a family? How can we use that time to ask God what is on our heart? How can we use that time to know God’s Heart?
We have just had a four week “experiment” with small groups in our church. I was most encouraged by a new level of intimacy that I had not seen before in our church. Sure our group had the normal chatting and laughing, but there was an openness and intimacy that developed, which never would have happened during our normal Church meetings. But the thing that impressed me the most was hearing simple, humble prayers that served to uplift us and bring us closer together. The prayer time was the most special time of the whole evening. WOW! How do we bring that into our church building? I hope we can continue to have small groups as a regular part of our church. I believe Jeremiah 13:15-17 gives us an insight as to the importance of growing in our prayer-life.
“Hear and give ear: Do not be proud, For the Lord has spoken. Give glory to the Lord your God before He causes darkness, And before your feet stumble On the dark mountains, And while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death And makes it dense darkness. But if you will not hear it, My soul will weep in secret for your pride; My eyes will weep bitterly And run down with tears, Because the Lord’s flock has been taken captive.”
We need to be giving glory to God on a daily basis, before He brings darkness into our lives. We need to be seeking His light each and every day. I have found that the darkness isn’t nearly so frightening when you have the Light of God in your heart. That Light needs prayer to fuel it. That Light needs an on-going link with the Supreme Power Source, Jehovah God.
When darkness comes into our lives, some of us turn to God and hope He will turn on the lights and make the darkness go away. In actuality the darkness has come because we have not been seeking His light. We will have to stumble around in darkness until our pride and self-sufficiency is exhausted and we truly desire God once more.
Daily Prayer is our way of listening to God, listening to what He wants to do in our lives. It should not be only to bend His ear for what we want. We should be yielding our ears to His Voice, to obey His Word. Prayer is essential to developing good ears to hear. Prayer should never be proud, never be demanding. Earnest and fervent perhaps, but never presuming upon the will of God. Claim the promises of His Word in bold prayer, but listen humbly at His feet for His Voice. If we do not listen to God, if we do not give Him glory, but glory in our own abilities, we will stumble in the darkness. We will be taken captive by our lusts, our pride, our arrogance. God will weep because we have turned away from Him!