TURNING PRAYER AROUND
“We do not want to be beginners at prayer. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything but beginners, all our life!” Thomas Merton
“So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.” Acts 12:5
In 1972 Harvie Conn wrote ‘Luke’s Theology of Prayer’. In this article he maintains that Biblical prayer must always be related to the redemptive purposes of God. If my prayers are mostly for my own needs, and not passionately related to the advancement of the kingdom of God, then my prayer has no vital centre. For most of us it will take radical steps in order to get a grasp of Biblical prayer. So we need to think in terms of actually ‘turning prayer around’.
From monologue to dialogue;
From anxious pleading to resting in God;
From getting my will to yielding to His;
From self-centeredness to ministry for others.
To clarify, let’s elaborate a little more on some of these.
- Prayer is not a monologue, it is a two-way street – a dialogue. Prayer is not only my talking to God, it is also my listening to Him. Prayer is a personal encounter that entails a two-way street.
Kierkegaard said long ago, “The true relation in prayer is not when God hears what is prayed for, but when the person praying continues to pray until he is the one who hears, who hears what God wills.” For this reason prayer and meditation take a little more time than we are often wanting to give.
- Prayer is more than anxious pleading; it is resting in a loving God. Prayer is a relationship. Even more; it is intimacy with the heavenly Father. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray he answered, “When you pray, say “Father!”(Luke 11:1-13). This was new to the disciples who never addressed God as “Father”. They did not understand such intimacy.
How different our life with the Lord would be if we truly experienced prayer as communion with an “Abba (Daddy) Father”. Ask yourself ‘Who is God to me in prayer?’ It is possible to commune with God out of fear rather than talking to God as to a loving and caring Father. That is quite a different experience.
- Prayer is moving from getting my will to yielding to His. Prayer is surrender. Asking is, in fact, the surrender of control. We wait upon Another to give or not to give. In Gethsemane, Jesus’ crucial moment occurred with His plea, “nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” In fact, prayer itself is an expression of our inability to cope. It is giving our requests, our lives, into His hands and trusting him fully. If prayer is real, then the final thing that matters most is that we submit to His plans for us.
- Prayer is moving from self to others; from self-centered praying. D Edmond Hiebert wrote in 1953: “Prayer is the most powerful and effective means of service in the Kingdom of God.”
The Book of Acts is the best illustration of how kingdom work is carried forward by intercessory prayer. In the first 13 chapters an incident of prayer occurs in all but one chapter. Also it should be noted that prayers in Acts are never for self-protection or selfish purposes – all prayers are for the advancement of the kingdom. Go and have a read!