~ Going Deeper through Prayer ~
Receiving a personal invitation is usually a welcome experience that evokes pleasant anticipation, but there are exceptions. For instance, being offered the privilege to watch Uncle Burford pledge his undying love to the woman who will become his fourth wife may not leave us enraptured at the prospect.
Other Less-than-Welcome Invitations ~
But since the traditional wedding and graduation seasons won’t be upon us for a few more months, let’s consider some other kinds of personal invitations. In particular, let’s focus on some occasions where our presence is requested in order to engage in a one-on-one conversation that could have significant impact on our lives. Consider these examples:
- Your love interest sends you a text that says, “Clear your calendar for this evening, because we need to talk.”
- Your doctor leaves you the following voicemail: “We have your test results and we need to come to the clinic and see me as soon as possible.”
- The IRS sends you a letter that says, “There are irregularities in your tax documents.Please schedule a meeting with our representative at your earliest convenience.”
- Your boss calls and says, “I need to see you in my office–NOW.”
My guess is that none of us who might have received that kind of personal invitation responded by erupting into a spontaneous rendition of their own version of Snoopy’s “Happy Dance of Joy.” It’s much more likely that we would have been left sitting in stunned silence, acutely aware that the impending conversations could have serious consequences.
A Stark Contrast ~
But against the foreboding backdrop of invitations like those, there’s another kind of invitation continuously extended to each of us. The One requesting our presence in this case has unparalleled authority and the power to significantly affect the lives of all who respond. This invitation is from Jesus Christ, and the difference in the nature and tone it conveys is striking:
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)
Invitations like those first illustrated almost always leave us anticipating a negative outcome and feeling that failure to show up would result in unpleasant personal repercussions. The invitation extended by God, on the other hand, contains no such implication.
An Incredible Opportunity ~
The very idea that our holy, thoroughly righteous, and omnipotent Creator would invite rebellious, self-centered, morally flawed people like us into His presence at all is beyond astounding, yet it is His great desire that we be with Him. It becomes even more incredible when we consider that there was an inexpressible price demanded for access to Him, and that it was Jesus Christ himself, not us, who paid it. God could have commanded us to come, or simply brought us before Him by force, but love doesn’t do that, so He chose another way.
To fulfill His ongoing and eternal objective to bring us into His presence, God issues a loving and compassionate invitation. He invites the most broken, flawed, and helpless among us to join Him in an intimate, one-on-one conversation. Prayer is our response to that invitation. Prayer is our means of personal access to God and our opportunity to engage in open dialog with Him. It is the most priceless and powerful asset we have in this world, and striving to delve deeper in how we practice it will always yield edifying rewards. The question is how do we actually do that?
An Essential Truth ~
There are many potential answers to that question, but an important key to a deeper prayer life was couched in a simple statement on a plaque displayed in my office. It declared simply, “Christianity is a Relationship.” The statement may be overly simplistic, but, nonetheless, it is true. Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s the process of living out a personal, interactive, love relationship with God. Like all relationships, the functional success of the union depends largely on the quality of communication between the participants. The matter of prayer in this regard is vital, because whatever else prayer may be, in its essence, it is an exercise in communication. The opportunity to engage with God in prayer is the most monumentally important communication we will ever experience.
Simply seeing prayer as an exercise in personal communication with God can open new doors. If we do no more than move prayer out of the category of a familiar religious ritual, it would be a great step toward a more active and fruitful relationship with God. Beyond that, applying some basics about communication to prayer, we find ways to make our prayer time more fulfilling:
- Prayer can be a physical activity and should not be restrained to a certain posture–head bowed, eyes closed, etc. Prayer can involve all kinds of physical expressions, and can be included in physical activities like walking, exercising, or in the context of other endeavors.
- Prayer is an emotional exercise. Throughout Biblical history, God’s people have expressed the deepest and most powerful human passions in times of prayer. If we endeavor to keep our emotions “under control,” we may be stripping our prayers of authenticity.
- Prayer is a psychological exercise. Communication between human beings is a means of expressing who we really are. Our prayers should never be adjusted in order to sound like someone we think is more impressive. We bring our own personality, our own vocabulary, and our own patterns of expression. When we do that, we’re freed to embrace our prayer time with an open heart.
- Prayer is a mental exercise. Prayer should involve our cognitive apparatus and ability to reason logically. Prayer without thoughtful consideration of what we want to say to God, as well as thoughtful reflection on what He may have said about the subject we’re discussing with Him, is disingenuous and unfruitful.
- Prayer is also, of course, deeply spiritual. Engaging in prayer should always recognize and honor the presence of the Holy Spirit of God, and include a readiness to listen and heed that internal voice that He longs to bring.
Prayer was designed by God to involve our total being. If we come before Him ready to expose all that we are and ready to hear all He has to say, we can trust that He will be ready to start revealing more of His “wonders in the deep”.
Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters, They see the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. Psalm 107:23-24 (NKJV)
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to Tweet & Share from the pull quotes below. Each quote links directly back to this article through Twitter.
- “Prayer is the most priceless and powerful asset we have in this world, and striving to delve deeper in how we practice it will always yield edifying rewards. The question is how do we actually do that?” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “(God) invites the most broken, flawed, and helpless among us to join Him in an intimate, one-on-one conversation. Prayer is our response to that invitation.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “The very idea that our holy, thoroughly righteous, and omnipotent Creator would invite rebellious, self-centered, morally flawed people like us into His presence at all is beyond astounding, yet it is His great desire that we be with Him.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Christianity isn’t a religion. It’s the process of living out a personal, interactive, love relationship with God. Like all relationships, the functional success of the union depends largely on the quality of communication between the participants.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
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