As I was doing some personal reflection during the final days of 2015, I decided to make 2016 my “year of prayer.” I did so for several reasons.
First, there are those seasons in the soul when one needs a fresh stimulus to pray. I was in one of those seasons. Second, I, along with the school, am facing significant transitions in the coming days-transitions that must have Divine direction. Third, I just wanted to learn more about prayer. I felt like Albert Einstein when a doctoral student at Princeton asked him, “What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?” To which Einstein replied, “Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer.” So rather than an article, I am giving you a peek into my private prayer journal where I am seeking to “find out about prayer.”
My approach is to share a personal observation that relates to a perceived weakness in my prayer life, and then a quote that spoke truth into my life about that particular area of weakness.
Observation #1: Too often when I approach prayer, I get the direction wrong. I quickly start downstream telling God about my concerns, my need of direction, my need of knowing His will, rather than starting upstream where the flow begins. However, when I start upstream, prayer raises my sight beyond the struggles or questions of the moment. It restores my vision to one that more resembles God’s. As I see things from His perspective, my soul is nourished and my faith strengthened.
“An extreme preoccupation with knowing God’s will for me may only indicate that I am over concerned with myself, rather than possessed with a Christlike interest in the well-being of others or in the glory of God.” -Dallas Willard
Observation #2: I often pray back to God the words of the Lord’s Prayer. I stress, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.” As I pray this, I am reminded that it takes effort on my part to remember that I am the creature and He is the Creator. The practical application of this means that I must climb down from my own executive chair of control, uncreate the little world I have fashioned, and let God truly be God!
“In a life of participation in God’s kingdom rule, we are not to make things happen, but only to be honestly willing and eager to be made able.”
Observation #3: At times my pray-ers seem so sterile. They are more like the dry repetition of liturgy than a conversation in the presence of my dearest friend. At the heart of this problem is a deficient understanding of how much God longs to talk with me, reveal Himself to me, and have a conversational relationship with me.
“The most staggering thing I have ever learned is that the eternal God-who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-has invited me to enter into conversation with that exclusive group.” -Dennis Kinlaw
“Who one believes God to be is most accurately revealed not in any credo but in the way one speaks to God when no one else is listening.” -Nancy Mairs
We are unceasing spiritual beings, created for an intimate and transforming friendship with the creative Community that is the Trinity.”
Observation #4: Sometimes when I go to the special place of prayer, it seems I am all alone-void of any sense of His presence. At those times my prayers seem particularly inadequate or faltering.
“Prayer can seem dull or difficult; though if we give ourselves to it, [it] commonly ends up less dull and less obstructed than it began. Only what is dull or dark or labored on our side is not so on the side of God, who rejoices in every least motion of our good will towards Him; and where we see the merest vestige of His presence, there with cherubim and seraphim and all the host of heaven is He.” –Austin Farrer
“We do not go to a certain place to present our prayers, for He is already with us. We simply turn our attention to Him and acknowledge the prior reality that He has been there all along.” -Dennis Kinlaw
“If we fixate on techniques, or sink into guilt over our inadequate prayers, or turn away in disappointment when I don’t sense His presence, I need to remind myself that prayer is keeping company with God who is already present.” -Philip Yancey
(To be continued)