Friday Forum: The Importance of a Prayer Discipline
It can be difficult to overstate the importance of prayer in one’s life in Christ. More often, we tend to understate it. We assert that it does not matter how we pray and the last thing we should be held accountable to is our prayer life.
Yet, what is keeping a prayer discipline supposed to do for our life in Christ?
Jesus modeled prayer for us, both by His life example and His teachings. In particular, when the disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He gave them these words:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Individual translations vary slightly, but Christ’s prayer given to the corporate body of Christ (we should not forget that the prayer is given to us in the plural form) reflects the manifest power of a prayer discipline in one’s life.
Holding unto a prayer discipline invites one to reconnect with the heart and life of God through repentance. I tend to view the historic, liturgical prayers as my “starter set.” The Lord’s prayer is full of petitions that challenge me. Do I really want God’s will to be done or do I pray “Your will be done as long as it agrees with what I already want”? Do I trust God for my daily bread or do I pray “Give me this day that to fill my storehouses to overflowing”? Do I want forgiveness or do I want to continue to nurse the grudge related to how my brother’s friend’s mother offended me the other day? Or am I just really holding unto my consumer sense of entitlement that I should have been able to find that really awesome book as a great deal? Do I trust Christ to fight for me, guiding me towards the newness of life in Him or do I white-knuckle with Satan trying to pull things off on my own?
The convictions stemming from the questioning nature of trying to make Christ’s prayers my own often forms the rest of how my prayer life goes. For those people who really question the nature of the Church and are open to the process of making Christ’s prayer your own, His prayer recorded in John 17 might be a really challenging prayer to pray.
Yet, when I am honest, the conviction fails to come. I find myself blinded by pride and try to assert that I can do everything by myself. I catch myself so many times making my prayer life about the things that I will. And wow am I stubborn. But the discipline of trying to pray does, by the grace of God, dig furrows into the soils of my heart so that seeds can be planted.
Prayer is fundamentally about connection. Prayer is connection with the Divine Life. Prayer enables us to partake of Christ’s divine nature. Prayer raises our awareness of what Christ is desiring to work within us. Prayer shows us His image already granted to us as a free gift at our own creation. And prayer, by God’s grace, connects us to the burning love of Christ that consumes us, only destroying that which separates us from Him.
Equally, prayer does not come to us all of the time. We exhort each other continually towards prayers, if only by raising the awareness of a situation in their lives about which we should pray. Living in a constant deluge of information about human suffering can leave us overwhelmed. Moreover, we will often tell friends who share something with us “Oh, I’ll certainly pray for you about that” and then forget entirely. We can easily lose our focus on Christ. We get caught in the concerns of the world around us, we try to go into “fix-it” mode, we lose hope that prayer makes any difference at all…. And if we become so jaded by how little Christ seems to do for us, then we can easily put all of the focus on ourselves.
O Lord, show us that apart from You we do nothing. Give us Your Spirit that will allow us to connect to Your divine Life in prayer. Nourish us on the vine of Yourself to the point where Your Goodness blooms from our branch.