Friday, May 3, 2013

Whisper a Prayer

Ethiopia Innocent Prayers of a Young Child (3405971322)
I tend to be a methodical, logical person.  Read the Bible every day?  Easy!  Just set my Kindle by the bed and read my daily selection when the alarm goes off in the morning.  I may not learn a thing, but I can check it off my list.  Prayer?  Prayer is something else entirely.  I've tried to be a methodical pray-er.  It doesn't work.  I can read my Bible on autopilot.  I don't always get a lot out of it, but I can do it.  I can't pray on autopilot.  It is too personal, too filled with relationship.  In the past, I've used the model of the Lord's prayer as a kind of checklist. "Hallowed be thy name"... praise... tell God how awesome He is.  "Give us this day"...supplication...ask for stuff.  "Forgive us our sins"...confession... tell God how bad I've been.  Amen! I'm done; moving on to something else. 

The problem for me is that setting a scheduled time and trying to pray for everything at once took the heart out of my prayer.    It was less a conversation with my Father and more a laundry list that I recited.  It was like calling my mom and reading her a list of what I have done this week.  I went shopping.  I made supper. I read to my kids.  She wouldn't  want to hear that, and I would get off the phone feeling frustrated.  That's how I felt with prayer. A checklist made me feel like my petitions bounced right off the ceiling.  I didn't feel changed, and I'm pretty sure you can't truly be in the presence of God without some kind of transformation going on. 

Once in awhile, though, I jumped out of my stale prayer box.  Looking at my baby girl, I realized how blessed I am to have her, and I thanked God deeply for her.  After my amen, I was more aware of all of my blessings and the source of them all.  Singing a song about heaven, my heart ached for those who are not headed there, and I prayed with deep sobs for their salvation.  For awhile, my eyes were wide open to opportunities to point them to Christ.  I noticed that these fresh prayers grew out of other disciplines I was practicing, other ways I was growing spiritually.  Instead of trying so hard to pray better, my conversations with God grew from my closeness to His word and His work. Those prayers were from my heart; they changed me.  Those are the kinds of prayers God wants to hear. 

So many prayers in the Bible are just like that, pulled from the very hearts of the people talking to God.    Hannah desperately wanted a son, so she prayed to God asking for one.  Her prayer was fervent enough that the priest thought she was drunk (1 Samuel 1).  When her prayer was answered by God, she praised him in beautiful song of thanksgiving.(1 Samuel 2).  Confronted with his sin, David cried out to the Lord, confessing his wrongs, and begging for a clean heart and a renewed spirit (Psalm 51).  The young church loved Peter dearly, and prayed fervently for his release from prison (Acts 12).  Most of the prayers of the Bible don't follow any kind of formula; they aren't all prayed at a single time during the day.  They are outpourings of love, thanksgiving, supplication, and sorrow from hearts that long to be close to God.

So, how do we see prayer as a spiritual discipline, something we train?  For me, training myself to be a more fervent pray-er does not involve setting a specific time or praying solely based on one model prayer. Instead, I am training myself to be more diligent to pray what is on my heart.  When my eyes are opened to my sin, I want to pray, right then, a prayer of confession and humility.  Seeing my blessings, I want to thank God for all He has done for me.  If I get a call from a friend about a need she has, I need to stop what I am doing and ask for God to intercede in her life.  After my Bible reading, I want to say a prayer about the things I have learned and how I should change.  Did you notice that by telling God what is on my heart, I can cover all the parts of the Lord's prayer?  I've only just started to pray in this way, but already I find my heart leaning more to God.  I have found that when I think about someone, I stop more often to pray for them.  When I see an ambulance go by, I've been more likely to pray for the drivers, paramedics, and patients.  When I see an ugly side of myself, I talk to God about it rather than wallow in my guilt.  

This is not to say that there is not a place for scheduled daily prayer in the Christian's life.  After all, both David and Jesus took time in the mornings to start their day off with prayer (Psalm 5, Mark 1). Daniel was so committed to a daily prayer that he was willing to be thrown to the lions rather than give it up! (Daniel 6). I wonder, though, if "praying without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17), taking multiple times during the day to pray what is on our hearts, won't train that prayer muscle to make morning prayers that much easier? 

The other day when I was listening to our "church music" playlist, I heard a song that I must have missed as a child.  I'll close by sharing the lyrics, which fit perfectly our idea of spiritual discipline and prayer.

Whisper a prayer in the morning
Whisper a prayer at noon
Whisper a prayer in the evening
To keep your heart in tune

God answers prayer in the morning
God answers prayer at noon
God answers prayer in the evening
So keep your heart in tune.

Jesus may come in the morning
Jesus may come at noon
Jesus may come in the evening
So keep your heart in tune.

No comments:

Post a Comment