John 20-21 // Joel 3 // Mathew 1-9
There has been a deep burning desire (a new thing in my heart) for prayer. I’m going through a lot of things in my life right now, unsure of numerous circumstances in and outside of my control. But this desire is deeper than that.
When I was young we had prayer meeting every Monday night. We would show up (bare in mind I was 14 years old at this time) and pray. These were prayer warriors. My pastor, the worship leader, several other servants, and NO youth (if they did come they hung out in the foyer until their parents were finished). I never had this mysterious desire to pray that everyone talks about, but I was taught the value and principle, so I did it anyway (unintentionally learning how to pray as worship*).
Now, in my older life, with: more responsibilities, higher stakes, more failures [fewer successes], and the looming threat of ineffectiveness, I long for those days. The feeling comes suddenly and I find myself questioning Eli asking whether next time I should say “Speak Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Sammy 3:11).
I had a conversation with Curtis Wilson where the man of God asked me “What is prayer, is it something more than talking to God?” The answer (which I couldn’t come up with until several hours later) is unequivocally No. Talking to God is what everyone does. Atheists do it, Buddhists and Pagans do it. The writer of Job says even the devil does it. I can easily conclude that Christians talking to God is a rather simplistic thing lacking power if not purpose. If we were honest with ourselves we would see that this low-level spiritual activity of “talking to God” is (other than shear acknowledgement) completely self motivated.
The answer is in Samuel. It says that Sammy ministered to the Lord day and night. To minister, in the literal sense, meaning “to give”. Prayer is Giving (worship, meditation, bible reading, journaling; spiritual disciplines in general are giving). If something isn’t taken out of us in these practices then we are fooling ourselves into a false sense of accomplishment**. I’m not saying that you must exhaust yourself in prayer [although . . .?], nor do I believe talking to God as a negative thing, I do it all the time, but I can’t settle for the good when I’m called to greatness. When Paul says he prays without ceasing, I think he’s paralleling his theme of pouring his life out as a drink offering.
I remember praying until I couldn’t pray anymore. Can I challenge myself to commit to that kind of prayer again? Not to bring back some old glory but to seek the new one. If I know His strength overshadows my weakness, my lack can be swallowed up in power. This is a fight with my self; my relationship wants me to talk to God, of course this pleases my flesh (even my conscience), making God more like me and demanding little in the vein of sacrifice. In contrast to “giving in prayer” where my spirit man is forced to rise up and endure the heavy weight of deep, insightful, and purposeful prayer, along with the weakness of my faith to give in to other pursuits. Hence “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much”, where do you think the “fervent” part comes in?
* There is something to be said about prayer as worship as well, but not now.
** That’s not to say that we don’t also receive something in these practices, but as the principle stands, power is in the giving, not the taking.