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Praying

11 Jun

prayingPraying is a personal discipline I hope to grow in and write much about, here is a previous blog on prayer. If one were to examine my prayer habits they might witness a great diligence in the discipline. It might be assumed that I have prayer figured out. Believe it or not I’m not boasting in this, if my heart were as transparent as my visible acts a different conclusion would be made. There is no boast here. After years of exercising the discipline of prayer I still struggle in a number of different areas. To possess a rich and thriving prayer life is more complicated than submitting to the Nike theory of prayer—Just Do It! In this post I will share a few of my personally struggles in prayer. I will engage with each idea briefly with the intent to expound more fully in later posts.

First, repetition breeds laziness in my heart. This is not repetition’s fault; it’s my heart’s fault. When one devotes daily time to pray beyond mealtime prayers it will become evident. Shoot, even in prayer at meals it’s evident. When people become familiar with anything we have a tendency to take it for granted or be lazy in it. Ceasing in prayer, giving into a fleshly tendency, is not the solution. We are to pray with out ceasing. Unfortunately I don’t have a spontaneous desire for prayer that would be labeled unceasing. Thus, by faith I must discipline my heart to submit to Scriptural command for unceasing prayer. One prayer I offer up frequently when I feel my heart grow cold is, ‘Father, grant me the strength to pray unceasingly with all my heart.’ Unless God grants this I will continue to flail in the laziness of my own heart.

Second, manipulating God in prayer. Sounds ridiculous, I know—like, who thinks that God can be controlled by the ever changing-flippant-incessant-fickle-demands of people? Nonetheless, I’ve found at times I use prayer in a way that I abhor. I’m rather sure I have preached that Christians shouldn’t use prayer as a means to control God. However over time prayer has become for me a means to an end. While I no longer praying for that Lamborghini, I do pray in churchy and selfishly ways. What I mean is that I use prayer to get what I want, feeling at times as though my devotion earns me the favor of getting prayers answered. This is not how prayer works. If God answers prayer it is because of grace and not my devotion. Don’t get me wrong we need to be devoted to prayer, but prayer is not for selfish gain, and if God answers the fervent prayers of the righteous his answers are because of the grace of Jesus Christ’s imputed righteousness to the one praying . ‘O Lord, incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain. Teach me of your grace and make me to know your ways.’

While the Nike theory of prayer is necessarily good, so is disciplining our heart and not only our time spent praying. Christian, we need is to discipline our hearts to actually pray and not just give lip service. Prayer is not a tool to control God. Prayer is a most magnificent gift from God as a means of communing with Him. How have you struggled in prayer? or How have you overcome in your struggle as you learn to pray?

Prayer

4 Apr

PrayerOver the years, prayer has become increasingly important to me. I once prayed simple-to-the-point-prayers, and now I pray simple-to-the-point-prayers. Even so, the discipline of prayer is not so ‘simple’. Usually, when one does something, or anything for that matter—let’s say running or knitting or something—that person usually grows in proficiency and skill. As time passes, I pray with greater frequency, devotion, and fervency, and yet I do not feel particularly proficiency or skilled in prayer; to consider one ‘good at prayer’ is dubious at best. Then again, maybe it isn’t. What I have learned is that prayer is not just a matter of doing it, and I don’t really pray like I should.

Once upon a time, I assumed the disciples to be rather dim for asking Jesus how to pray; I mean, they had the Messiah with them, modeling prayer constantly, just do what he does, right? How hard can it really be? Now I feel stricken with the same dimness I once thought the disciples to possess—Lord, how do I pray?

Sometimes, Christians inquiring about prayer only receive exhortations more akin to a Nike commercial than Jesus’ instruction to his disciples. I understand prayer can be made into an impossible labyrinth of genuflection, ritual, and technique, which is damaging. And while prayer might be as simple as the ABC’s, it must be realized that the ABC’s were not so easy at one point in everyone’s life.

The words of J.I. Packer & Carolyn Nystrom in their book Praying were rather comforting as I recently struggled through a difficult season of prayer. “Let’s be realistic where we are and where we are not in this matter of praying. Deep down all of us have found that prayer isn’t as easy as some people make it sound, or as easy as we ourselves had hoped it would be once our technique was straightened out.

While prayer is not merely a heartless technique, it is also more than simply talking to God. Prayer is a unique path to relate to God where one can seek him in all things. In the end, this is an inadequate description of prayer; thus the importance of taking the time to reflect upon what prayer is, what prayer is not, and the importance of growing in the discipline of prayer.

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