A Man (or Woman) of God will live a life Marked By Prayer. It is important to recognize some prayer can be simply a show, a mark of spiritual one-upmanship. Public prayers, especially, can be a mark of hypocrisy, or simply a religious observance. Many prayers are “false prayers,” performed more for the human audience, than for communication with God (Matthew 5:6-8).
But a man or woman who is getting to know the Divine One will pray! So just as you should always read with a critical mind, you should listen to prayers with attention for whom the prayer is really intended. But if you would like to know the answers to the Great Questions of Life; if you want to find the purpose of life, of your life; if you want to understand the confusion and injustice and cruelty of our world; if you desire to know what will happen to us after we die; well, then you must become a man or woman of God, Marked By Prayer.
Prayer is one of the most misunderstood concepts in Christianity. Max Lucado, in “before Amen”, suggests the picture of a child approaching his dad when he has come to pick him up from elementary school. Imagine the child saying to his daddy, “Oh, Father, it is most gracious of thee to drive thy car to my place of education and provide me with domestic transportation. Please know of my deep gratitude for your benevolence. For thou art splendid in thy attentive care and diligent in thy dedication. . . . Carefree. Joy filled. Playful. Trusting. Curious. Excited.” These are the things that children feel approaching their dads, not the staid formality of many prayers one hears for show.
The idea is that prayer is supposed to be the conversation of a creature, you or me, with our Creator, Him Whom He Knows Himself To Be. Now this God is very unlike us. We are talking about the designer of DNA, architect of galaxies and the very structure of light, and maker of dark matter. He strides between stars and counts all the kingdoms of the world as less than a drop in a bucket (Isaiah 40:12-31). How can we approach Him with anything less that the most auspicious respect and humility? Actually, we cannot approach Him at all, except that He has invited us to do so. And He has invited us to come as little children to a loving Daddy.
There is nothing you cannot say to Him; He already knows what is in the deepest parts of your heart, what is on your mind, what you wish you could tell someone (Psalm 139:1-16). When you are angry, there is no use pretending not to be when you pray. If you have just had lustful thoughts, there is no fooling Him as though He did not know. If you are holding onto bitterness, it is useless to pretend everything is all right in your heart. HE KNOWS!!
But the marvel of His love is that He still wants us to come. He does not intend to leave us angry, lustful, bitter, or with any fault, but He cannot change us unless we spend time with Him.
So prayer is first and foremost getting to know Him better. This means two-way communication. In our times, He usually does not speak in audible voices, or provide dreams and visions, although for some He does these things. But for most of us, listening to His voice is an exercise in growing attentive. You will likely NOT hear Him with music blasting from your stereo or iPod, or even from a “worship team”; He will not yell over the noise of your companions or friends; He does not come in burning bushes or thunderous storm clouds. He did that and people did not listen to Him (Hebrews 3:7-13).
So now He comes quietly in a still small voice (I Kings 19:11-12), looking for anyone who will set aside time to listen for Him. The volume of prayer, either in decibels, number of words, or hours, is unimportant. But consider what you do with your time; how many minutes do you spend each day in prayer? Although the value of prayer cannot be measured by its volume, it can safely be said that prayer is valueless if you do not pray.
So make some time to pray today. Anticipate opposition to doing this. But make some time today to be alone with Him, and see if you can begin to learn to hear His voice. In future blogs, we will discuss different types of prayer, how to listen for Him, and how to recognize His voice, but for right now, just PRAY!
PRAY then things are going well; PRAY when you have a need; PRAY when there are things you do not understand; PRAY when there is an emergency; PRAY when there is no crisis; PRAY for your family, coworkers, that irritating person, the one who always is so nice to be around; PRAY about everything in your life and your world. Let your life be Marked By Prayer. (See March 1, 2015 for Part 2)