If you are a believer, you have probably had a family member or friend approach you and say, “Please pray for me.” What is your response when someone asks this? Why you? What exactly do they expect you to pray for? What is your approach to prayer or your practice of prayer?
Prayer is at the center of the Christian life. As good Jews, it was certainly on the mind of Jesus’ disciples. Luke 11: 1 says, “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ (NIV)
Jesus responded in this way:
“And when you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.” (Matthew 6:5-6, The Message)
These words of Jesus emphasize that prayer is not only how we communicate with God, but how God communicates with us. The prayer of the believer may include adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication (both intercession and petition), but it essential that there be time to listen to what God is saying.
If we are not careful, prayer can become an empty ritual or a habit without purpose composed of trite phrases and meaningless words. Over the last several years, I have been exposed to several different approaches to prayer—praying the scriptures (Lectio Divina), centering prayer, and the breath prayer. Each has given me a new perspective on prayer. There is nothing new about these practices; they come down to us from earlier believers who sought a more vibrant, powerful relationship with God in prayer. Each calls us to focus on God and to listen for the voice of God.
The primary thing that I have learned from these practices is that I must make space for God in my life. Certainly God walks beside us daily, but we can only hear his voice when we listen.
One of the most important gifts that I can give to another person is my presence and full attention. We show love by giving our attention to the one we love, unhindered by distractions. The same is true in our relationship with God.
Here are some questions you might consider as you think about your prayer life:
· How often am I engaging in direct, honest conversation with God?
· Am I allowing listening time in my prayers so that God can speak to me?
· Am I willing to hear God’s answer?
· How can I structure my day to improve my practice of prayer?