By Pat Knight
If you were asked to identify the most precious, on-going blessings in your life, would prayer be the preeminent item on your list? Prayer is a spiritual gift that underpins all others. The ability to communicate with the Creator of the entire universe is an unprecedented privilege.
When Jesus lived on earth, people swarmed around Him constantly to listen to His astonishing messages and to observe miracles. To relax and refresh, Jesus spent time conversing with His heavenly Father. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). If Jesus required the renewal and serenity inherent in prayer, how much more we need a sovereign boost of energy. Jesus teaches us the mental and physical benefits of relaxing as we seek the peace our Lord offers.
Conversation requires talking and listening. Such is the posture of prayer. Listening is an active art. To listen well, we must concentrate to eliminate distractions. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to the Father, who is in heaven. And, there your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6, 18). The emphasis is talking to God in private.
I am going into my closet to talk with you, God. Quite possibly that closet may be only as far as behind my eyelids, while scrubbing in the shower, or when driving distances alone in the vehicle. God is pleased when we choose a quiet, undisturbed place where we give Him our undivided attention. He desires to fellowship with us, to accept our praise and adoration, and to hear our needs and concerns. No matter is too small or too large to present to our Lord.
The Greek word for a closet probably indicates the storeroom, for it was the only room in ancient houses that had a door that could be closed, providing privacy. We are instructed to pray as Jesus did. Seek a quiet area where interruptions do not compromise our effort. Distractions easily dissuade us from focusing on God alone. Our human minds easily wander and soon we lose sight of our intent. Satan loves to confuse our prayer efforts; to minimize our devotion and worship of our Lord, the supreme listener.
Though audible, public prayer is appropriate, Jesus mainly instructed His disciples in silent, secret prayer, a one-on-one private conversation between only God and the Christian. In our technological world, there is precious little individual privacy still existing. But, our Lord always keeps our confidence. We can share with Him details of our lives, including emotions we would never dream of divulging to another human.
Beyond secrecy and silence, Jesus commands steadfastness. He requires loyalty, dependability, and unswerving devotion.
Prayer is a power tool entrusted to believers for the benefit of all.
Let us be responsible with the tools with which Jesus equips us, to boldly request God’s miraculous interventions. God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV). The most fantastic scenario our minds are able to contrive cannot equate to the splendiferous answers our Lord provides. Recall the marvelous answers He has furnished in the past and trust Him for the magnificent provisions He will provide to sustain you in the future.
Though God encourages us to request needs for ourselves and others, He is not a magician who jumps to do our bidding, giving us everything we want from a shopping list we present to Him. God’s priority is first of all a close relationship with Him predicated on the forgiveness of sins provided by His Son on the cross of Calvary. Prior to Christ’s sacrifice there was a wide chasm, an impasse between the Creator and the creature. When Jesus atoned for our sins, lavishing us with His redeeming grace, the abyss was closed forever, permitting communication with God the Father and God the Son.
At its most basic form, prayer is talking with God. We often complicate God’s commands with self-made rules when our heavenly Father wants us to follow the guideline established by Jesus. “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Although we are encouraged to pray with boldness and confidence, we are to extend reverence and awe when speaking to God.
Our Lord already knows the thoughts of our minds, but He desires that we personally express them to Him. “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8b). Intercessory prayer is our privilege of presenting the needs of others to Jesus. We are commanded to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). The willingness to help others with a selfless attitude is the hallmark of a Christian.
Christ is the conduit through whom our intercessions are made known to the Father. Prayer was conceived by God, made acceptable by the sacrifice of the pure Son of God, and is expressed for us by the Holy Spirit. All three personalities of the Deity participate in the important mechanism of prayer. The Holy Spirit teaches us God’s Word; the Son of God opens the pathway to prayer; God accepts our prayers in Christ’s behalf.
Prayer is a privilege; prayer is powerful; prayer is a problem-solver. The results of prayer are phenomenal! We converse with God in prayer and He speaks to us through His Word.
In the deepest of our being where our thoughts emerge, be open and frank, expressing doubts and worries. Dare to share dreams and aspirations. If our respectful minds form the words, then those thoughts are acceptable to God. It has been said that prayer is more an attitude of life than an action of the lips. Prayer is a healthy habit to develop. Soon, habits repeated transform to an integral part of one’s life.
We are commanded to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). With the power tool of prayer in hand and praise in our hearts, let us prioritize walking the pathways of continual prayer. We will then be the beneficiaries of one of the most precious interactive gifts available anywhere on earth!