“Praying for you.” It is something we say to one another and often do for one another. And frankly, it means a lot to hear that from someone. It encourages us and strengthens us in our faith and as a community.
Prayer can seem really complicated, but I think that is why Jesus reminded the disciples that it could be simple – as simple as the ten lines of the Lord’s prayer. The disciples asked for a lengthy teaching on prayer. They said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Most Rabbi’s of Jesus’s day spent days and weeks teaching their disciples to pray. Jesus simply gave them a summary. He told them to come to God like children – open, eager and expecting God to answer, and to pray for God’s will to permeate their lives and the world.
In approaching prayer it helps to listen and learn from those who have engaged with it deeply. In fact, Richard Foster writes about prayer as a learning exercise in and of itself. He writes, “[i]t was liberating for me to understand that prayer involved a learning process. I was free to question, to experiment, even to fail, for I knew I was learning” (Celebration of Discipline). He described how he started with small prayers, for a cold to dissipate or earache to heal, not the big things like cancer or life and death matters. Then he waited to see God work. He also noted that in those prayers he learned to pray with confidence. That posture of confidence came from first seeking God’s heart. Foster looked back to writers like Teresa of Avila and King David and realized that they first sought to understand God’s will, to enter into God’s presence, before seeking to lay their concerns and desires before God. And Jesus taught the same thing, the Lord’s prayer starts with “…thy kingdom come” and ends with supplication and requests. Foster learned that as he sought God, and saw the fruits of his small prayers, his confidence in prayer grew and his connection to God deepened.
Seeking God’s will, God’s heart, places us in the proper posture for prayer. It reminds us of God’s love for us. Tim Keller write that we experience God’s love through prayer, “[p]rayer is the way to sense and appropriate this access [to God] and fatherly love, and to experience the calm and strength in one’s life that results from such assurance of being cared for.” We can come to God with confidence because God promises that what we seek we will find. When we truly seek to do God’s will, God will answer those prayers in mighty and surprising ways.
InterVarsity recently shared this prayer Robert J. Foster from his book entitled “Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.” It is a great reminder to recenter ourselves in God and in God’s will.
Today, O Lord, I yield myself to You.
May Your will be my delight today.
May You have perfect sway in me.
May your love be the pattern of my living.
I surrender to You my hopes, my dreams, my ambitions.
Do with them what You will, when You will, as You will.
I place into Your loving care my family, my friends, my future.
Care for them with a care that I can never give.
I release into Your hands my need to control, my craving for status, my fear of obscurity.
Eradicate the evil, purify the good, and establish Your Kingdom on earth.
For Jesus’ sake, Amen.
Through prayer we connect with the heart of God – for us and for others. It allows our prayers to be grounded in love and allows God’s love to flow through us and into the world around us.
Exercise for today:
Find a quiet spot and position yourself in a space and in a way that will not distract you. Re-read the prayer above as your prayer today, reading slowly one line at a time. If you feel a need to pray more deeply, pause after each line and listen for God’s voice. If distracting thoughts pop in, talk to God about what is surfacing in your heart and mind, and then proceed to the next line. End with a minute or two of silence (whatever is comfortable) and listen for God to speak to you.