People of Prayer
What part does prayer play in our busy, crammed-full-of-stuff lives? Would the people who know us best confirm that we are people of prayer?
I've been through stretches in my life when the only time I prayed was when I was desperate. Someone once said, "There are no atheists in a foxhole," meaning everybody prays on the battlefield in the heat of the battle. It took a while for God to get through to me that prayer is more than the emergency fire pull of my life. That He longs to talk with me and draw close to me every day.
I was taught the value of a consistent, daily "Quiet Time" as a spiritual discipline when I was a young Christian through a discipleship group I participated in during college. We were encouraged to begin each day with reading scripture and praying as a way to connect with God before the day began and built to break-neck speed.
Jesus-And-Me time (JAM Time) is a great practice, and a consistent part of my life every single day. If the day is going to be jam-packed, or if I have an early appointment, I simply get up 15-30 minutes earlier to talk to Jesus before the day begins. My personal, daily Scripture plan is reading through the One Year Bible each year, with its daily readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament, from Psalms and from the Proverbs. The reading typically takes about 15 minutes.
But I also know a morning JAM time can become routine, and is not what I believe the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful," in Colossians 4:2. Prayer is communion with the Living God, and it is not restricted to a 30-minute JAM time in the morning.
Shirley and I ate breakfast at Cracker Barrel on Saturday, and as we left the restaurant and made our way to our car, we heard yelling on the parking lot. A young man was yelling in anger at a young woman, with a small child standing beside her. Immediately Shirley began praying out loud, "Lord Jesus, protect the child. Protect the child." And I joined her silently as she prayed. The need could not wait for the next morning's JAM time.
In some ways, my prayer life is similar to talking with my wife. Sometimes there is a quick text. Sometimes there is a longer conversation over a meal. Sometimes there is a tug of war over something we disagree about. (Jacob wrestled with God, and many of us have had extended "negotiations" with God when we sensed He was calling us to do something we really didn't want to do.) Many times it is a word of encouragement or simply a quick "I love you."
Brother Lawrence, a monk who wrote The Practice of the Presence of God, suggests one may pray while washing dishes, or doing other daily work. Sometimes I pray while I'm driving the car. Sometimes I pray while I'm mowing. I believe God longs for prayer to be far more than desperation or a spiritual discipline. I believe He longs to commune with us constantly, as a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24). Paul also wrote, "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17) One can pray in a deer stand. Or on the golf course. Or while peeling potatoes. You get the idea...
And what is praying itself? It is simply talking with God. It is speaking, in our own words, what is on our heart, and listening for God's response. Prayer does not have to be eloquent or liturgical. It does not have to use King James English, addressing God with Thee's and Thy's, and asking if He will granteth our petitions.
Some people find it expressive to write the thoughts of their heart to God. Sometimes it helps us focus our eighty-miles-an-hour thoughts to write God a letter. In prayer, one can be brutally honest with God. He can take it. He understands when we are angry or wounded or completely frustrated.
So what does prayer look like in my life? How often do I speak with Jesus? How consistent am I at listening for His voice and sharing with Him my heart?
"Devote yourselves to prayer." It's a great recommendation from a man of prayer who knew the power of prayer and who knew how much we need an intimate relationship with the Living God. Let's do this! Let's become people of prayer!