what prayer is: the disciplines
This is the third/final installment in a little series on communion with God...I drew from the session I taught at a retreat I was blessed to be part of a couple years ago – one that focused on encouraging women to connect with God and move past the hurts & hurdles that were keeping them from entering His presence with prayer and praise. We just inadvertently consume so many lies about what it means to BE with God, to experience His life and what that requires…and I want to address those. Because y’all – if you belong to Christ and are hidden in Him, then the very Spirit of the Living God indwells you. You can’t GET any closer than that! To start at the beginning of this series, click here! -----------
Trust Me enough to spend ample time with Me, pushing back the demands of the day. Refuse to feel guilty about something that is so pleasing to Me, the King of the universe. Because I am omnipotent, I am able to bend time and events in your favor. You will find that you can accomplish more in less time, after you have given yourself to Me in rich communion. Also, as you align yourself with My perspective, you can sort out what is important and what is not.
Don’t fall into the trap of being constantly on the go. Many, many things people do in My Name have no value in My kingdom. To avoid doing meaningless works, stay in continual communication with Me. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. [Psalm 32:8]
That excerpt is from Sarah Young's devotional guide, Jesus Calling. I'm not normally a big fan of books like this, but her collection of Words from the Father during a specific season of her life is powerful and applicable.
I want to suggest to you that in its simplest form, prayer is a way of orienting ourselves & our requests around the person of Jesus Christ. It’s a way of relating everything that goes on in our lives, every need & want we have, to Him. We establish a God-consciousness in our daily activity. We use Himself, His Word, His presence as our reference point for all things that take place. This is how prayer is born in our hearts. When we are relating everything in our lives to Jesus Christ, to God the Father, then we are communing with Him. We are delighting in Him. We are praying.
1 Timothy 4:7 says we are to “discipline ourselves for the purposes of godliness”. Discipline – exercise, if you will – is not magically giving you something that’s not already there; it can only DEVELOP what exists already because of Christ. Establishing disciplines of prayer, then, is about relying on His life and His supply within you. You cannot purchase Christ-likeness, intimacy with the Father, through human effort – it’s a journey, not a goal. 2 Peter talks about how we “have everything we need for life & godliness” …it means the life of Christ within us supplies both the desire & the ability to pray.
The great freedom of this is that the spiritual discipline of prayer can take on many forms. I will state at the outset that the Scriptures call for both daily, ongoing communion (1 Thessalonians admonition to "pray without ceasing") and times of quiet, intentional prayer (the way Jesus pursued time with the Father, "He retreated to a quiet place"). These two forms are not mutually exclusive, but my experience has taught me that you cannot go deep with God on the run. There is a time and place for that "Oh, I talk to God all the time" kind of prayer and equally, a time and place for rising early or staying up late, to press our knees to the ground before Holy God. And these two, linked as they are, will take on difference appearances in the varying seasons of our life.
Ongoing communion with the Father is a daily, hourly, moment-by-moment orienting of ourselves around Jesus Christ. It involves learning to filter everything through the life of Christ as it enters our path. It requires as much discipline as finding an intentional time of prayer, because the very way we think must begin shifting. We begin to look at everything we encounter as coming from the hand of the Father and we breathe in grace and exhale gratitude.
When I wake in the morning – I confess that I can only get along today because of His life. When I encounter something negative or frustrating – ask God to intervene for His glory! When I receive a sweet gift from the Father, maybe an extra few minutes of sleep or a note from a friend – thank Him for His blessings. When I’m faced with a decision that requires an answer – I ask for wisdom. With everything that comes our way, we present ourselves to Him for transformation.
Intentional times of prayer are the foundation that allow us to pursue God’s heart through ongoing communion throughout the day. The bible, through directive and example, provides us with so many ways we can intentionally pursue the Father through prayer. [Click here for a really great resource on intentional prayer!]
In times of prayer & personal worship, there is much freedom with the Father – praise Him for that! Perhaps one day you may spend much time talking… beginning by expressing gratitude – honoring God as the giver of ALL we need (1 Thess 5:18 – this is God’s will for us)…we may petition Him for help, pouring out our requests into Infinite Love (Psalm 57:2 – we cry aloud to God who accomplishes all things for us)…we may intercede for others, asking God to triumph in someone else’s life (Romans 7:25 – Christ’s example as the Ultimate Intercessor).
Another time you may be silent before the Lord, but just as attentive… We empty our agenda & quietly center on God, we meditate silently on Scriptures we’ve read, we let go of our expectations & demands for answers and we celebrate our oneness with the Father by being still & knowing He is God!
Prayer is such a mysterious concept…we act like it’s simple & productive and while it can be both of those things, this idea that we, in our finite humanity with our human emotions, can engage with Almighty God in His eternal divinity…it’s kind of big. I don’t want us to leave thinking, “Oh, I just need to pray differently or pray more or get organized in my prayer closet.
While God may be instructing you to do those things and obedience is critical, I think that sometimes, we just get to fall to our knees and revel in the glorious mystery of praying.