That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Prayer

Pray without ceasing.
II Thessalonians 5:17

I like it when people say what they mean.  You know, without beating around the bush or sugar-coating their statements.  If you've got something to say, just say it like it is!  This verse does exactly that.  It's direct. Simple. I like that.  In fact, it's so concise that it's almost shorter than it's reference!  

Prayer is an amazing privilege.  Think about it.  I can actually speak with the holy, almighty, God of the universe.  And He actually listens!  Wow!  Not only that, God loves to hear His children pray.  He loves it so much that He wants them to constantly be in communication with Him.  Pray without ceasing.  Don't stop praying.

Sadly, prayer, like many other aspects of Christianity today, has been hi-jacked by a lot of false teaching, misconceptions, and down right blasphemies.  In Luke 11, Jesus' disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray.  From that question we have recorded what has become known as the Lord's prayer.  Perhaps it could be more accurately called a "model" prayer.  This prayer is simple.  It's not full of fancy flowery language.  It doesn't include a mystical, spiritual experience of feeling God's presence.  There's no instruction about relaxing, breathing, and/or disassociating from conscious thought in order to hear from God.  Why?  Because, prayer is not mystical.  Prayer is not experience.  Prayer is not silence.  Prayer is not an altered state of mind.  Prayer is not a feeling.  Prayer is not sensing. Prayer is not emptying oneself of all conscious thought in order to hear from God.  Prayer is not speaking in a "heavenly" language.  Prayer is not spiritual formation.  Prayer is not labyrinth. Prayer is not repeating a holy phrase over and over.  None of these things are part of Jesus' teachings or any teaching in the Bible.  In fact, most of these things are clearly forbidden in Scripture.

So then, what is prayer?  Prayer is nothing more and nothing less than talking to God.  From Luke 11, the model prayer, we see that prayer is addressing God with respect and honour. Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.  It's about knowing God's will and following it.  Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.  It's about asking God to supply our needs and recognizing that all we have comes from Him.  Give us day by day our daily bread.  It's about confessing our sin and asking forgiveness.  Forgive us our sins.  It's about asking God for protection, guidance, and grace to live for Him.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Prayer is communication. Plain and simple.  

There's no doubt that God wants His children to pray, but I think if we were all honest, we would admit it's hard speaking to Someone we can't see or hear.  Having a conversation with God can feel awkward.  Kind of like you're speaking to air.  We're used to conversation being a two-way street.  We speak, another responds.  They speak, we respond.  Prayer is different.  God doesn't use an audible voice to communicate with us.  Perhaps that is why many Christians are forsaking biblical prayer for a prayer "experience" that is more tangible.  Experience can be powerful.  It can be convincing.  A mystical "encounter" of a spiritual nature can be very satisfying to our desire to have a tangible response when we pray.  God never promises to give us a powerful prayer experience, but He does promise to hear and answer our prayers.  Don't you think that should be enough for us?  Why seek all these other feelings?  We need to trust God more and stop relying on feelings and experience as validation that our prayers are effective.  Remember Jesus' word's to Thomas? ...Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (John 20:29).

There are many passages of Scripture that talk about prayer.  Not one of them ever indicate that prayer is a mystical experience of feeling and/or knowing God.  I am convinced that those who engage in a mystical type of prayer (like some of the things I mentioned above) are practicing something very dangerous.  They are opening themselves up to an experience that doesn't come from God, and if it doesn't come from God, there's only one other place it can come from, and it's NOT good!  Satan is the master deceiver, and he is very cunning.  He can disguise himself as an angel of light.  An angel that looks like it's from God.  That's scary!  Mystical type prayer has exploded in popularity in Christian circles, even amongst conservative Christians.  It grieves me that so many don't even realize that they are being taught something that is not in Scripture.  Prayer is vital.  We NEED prayer.  We NEED praying Christians.  We cannot let Satan corrupt our prayer with false practices, because we NEED communication with God.  Let's be praying Christians, but let's make sure we're praying in a godly, biblical way.  Remember, God promises to answer those kinds of prayers!

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