The Practice of Prayer
- 2003 29 Apr
Not long ago, I found a nail in the left rear tire of my car. I was running late to an appointment, so I didn't get it fixed. Instead, I found a service station and filled that tire up more than I should have. And the longer I spoke at that engagement, I knew that tire was growing flatter by the minute.
That leaking tire was, in so many ways, like our need for prayer. Sometimes we operate on and on, day after day, without stopping for a refill of power and a word of direction. And slowly but surely, we become discouraged and downtrodden, don't we? So often we forget that prayer is the maintenance kit that brings power, life, and long-lasting hope to our journey.
How, Then, Shall We Pray?
I love the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wanted to set the record straight on how people should pray. This group of people had watched their leaders---the Pharisees---put prayer on display, ad infinitum, ad nauseam. And He had the fortitude to publicly call these leaders what they were: hypocrites. (That man had guts!)
Instead of hypocrisy, Jesus offered His followers a safeguard guaranteed to keep their prayers genuine:
"When you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Matthew 6:6)
Make the Father Your Main Focus. I read several years ago about a Puritan preacher who began his prayer with long and colorful language. His introduction carried on and on, until a lady in the choir reached over, pulled on his robe, and said to him, "Psst! Just call Him Father and ask Him for somethin'."
When you go to your earthly father, you call him Dad. And if he's a great dad, he drops everything to talk to you. Nothing thrills him more than knowing his child wants to talk to him, no matter what age. That's how it is with our heavenly Father. Just call Him Father and ask Him for something. He's right there, ready to answer those with willing hearts.
Make the Secret Place Your Platform. The best kind of prayer is done when no one is watching or listening. It begins in the closet, not at the church. It bares its soul without a hidden agenda. It genuinely seeks to know what God desires.
I can tell you from experience that one of the most challenging parts of pastoring a church is leading in pastoral prayer. To connect with the Almighty as if you are all alone, knowing you're surrounded by those who are quiet and listening, is a real challenge. It's easy to parade our righteousness in moments like that. But our prayers need to be offered spontaneously and authentically.
Prayer means coming to your Father in secret and your Father in secret listening to you. And He will repay you accordingly--according to His will, according to what is best.
So the next time you're out on the road and your tire starts to wear a little thin, remember that it's not the quick can of fix-a-flat that's going to restore your perspective. It's your sincere prayer to the Father, offered out of the wellspring of your heart, that will help you keep on keeping on.
Article used by permission of Insight for Living