There are a couple of topics of which I still, after many years, feel unworthy to preach. One, is faith; and, the other is prayer. These are topics that are easy for us preachers to preach; but, quite different topics when it comes to practice. In regards to faith, I love how Spurgeon put it, "A little faith can take your soul to Heaven; a great faith can bring Heaven to your soul."
Prayer is a subject that, to be quite honest, I misunderstood for many, many years. As a young preacher, I sat at the feet of some of God's prayer warriors, and there was hardly a time, after listening to them describe their times with God, that I did not leave with deep feeling of condemnation. I would read books on the subject of prayer by Torrey, Bounds, Murray; biographies of great men of prayer such as Hyde, Knox, and Murray-McCheyne; and, in spite of my love for books, I would lay them down feeling as if I could never match up to the example they set.
One day, during my quiet time, a verse leaped off the page at me. It was a verse I had read, and I'm sure you have read many times. In Luke 11: 1, the disciples ask a question of Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray." That question struck me for several reasons. It intrigued me that of anything the disciples could have asked, they asked to enroll in the school of prayer. They did not ask to learn how to heal the sick, open blinded eyes, make the lame to walk, walk on water, feed 20,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, or even raise the dead. They asked to be taught how to pray.
Jesus had just finished His own personal prayer meeting, and when it was over he was met with the question from His disciples. Apparently, the disciples either heard Jesus pray, or they saw the effect prayer had upon Him; thus, they in essence ask, "Lord, we have heard You pray, and we want You to teach us to pray like that!"
That brings to bear the question, 'How did Jesus pray?" John 17 is "The Lord's Prayer." Of the 650 prayers in the Bible, none of them hail in comparison to the High Priestly Prayer recorded in John 17. The focus of the prayer was a Son talking to His Father in sweet, unbroken communion.
Most prayers focus on what they can get from God, while the prayer of Jesus focused on who He could be with God. Too often, our prayers are focused upon getting God's approval, while the prayer of Jesus focused upon gaining God's attention. Then it dawned upon me...prayer is designed for us to gain God's attention; and, as a result of gaining His attention, we receive the blessing of getting His approval.
Suddenly, I began to realize that prayer was simply spending time with my Heavenly Father. While I had become wrapped up in the blessings, God wanted me to concern myself with the Blessor. I was to become focused on the Giver, not the gifts. When I concerned myself with Him, I became less concerned about what I could get from Him, and became more concerned with just being with Him.
Instead of coming into His presence with my 'Christmas wish list,' telling Him all that I needed (really wanted), I could come into His presence just for the joy of coming into His presence comforted in the fact that He knows what I need, "even before I ask Him." I recently had someone ask me, "Pastor, if God knows what we need before we ask Him, why should we ask Him?" I replied, "Because HE LOVES TO HEAR YOUR VOICE!"
To again borrow the words of Spurgeon, "Some brethren pray by the yard; but, true prayer is measured by weight, not by length."
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.
In God's school of prayer, we can bring, or we can just BE!
Still Learning to Lean,