Making More Of Our Prayer
Philip Yancey has long been one of my favorite authors in matters of faith. I was attracted to Yancey years ago when I read his book, THE JESUS I NEVER KNEW. I used it as a small group study that in many ways opened new ways of understanding the life and teachings of Christ. Then, that led to another study, WHAT’S SO AMAZING ABOUT GRACE, which also yielded a sermon series on grace. A more recent book, PRAYER: DOES IT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE, prompted our current sermon series during Lent as we explore the significance of prayer for our daily lives by following “The Lord’s Prayer,” the prayer Jesus taught us.
Yancey asked what I think is an important question: “How often do I come to God, not with consumer requests, but simply with a desire to spend time with him?”
To me, that is the real key to a life of prayer. We all have needs that we should express to God. After all, didn’t Jesus tell us to make our requests to God? And didn’t Jesus also say, “Give me your burdens?” Of course, he did. But Jesus, by example, also showed us the importance of simply spending time with God. We see him frequently going off by himself just to pray, to spend time with his Father. Jesus was always praying. That “lifeline,” so to speak, was always open.
Is that the way it is with us? Do we make it a priority to spend time with God? Is it high on our list of desires? Is prayer, and the other spiritual disciplines, truly our “lifeline” to God? If not, could it be that our understanding of prayer hasn’t developed along the way, or maybe is just plain wrong?
Yancey tells the story of Jonathan Aitken, a former member of parliament in the United Kingdom, who compared his early relationship with God to that of a bank manager. “I spoke to (God) politely, visited his premises intermittently, occasionally thanked condescendingly for His assistance, kept up the appearance of being one of his reliable customers, and maintained superficial contact with Him on the grounds that one of these days He might come in useful.”
It was only later, after his life came crashing down and Aitken spent time in prison, that he sought a more intimate relationship with God. And that’s when his life changed. No longer was God remote and distant, an occasional “friend” to call upon when “He might come in useful.” No, God was close and constant, as close as simply speaking God’s name. And God is there for us, too. God wants to hear us. God wants to spend time with us. That’s why God gave us the gift of prayer.
As we move toward Holy Week and Easter Sunday, we will see that the themes of “The Lord’s Prayer” happen to touch on every aspect of our faith journey– from praising God and receiving our daily bread to forgiving others and seeking “Thy will be done.” And finally, we celebrate and share in the joy of resurrec- tion as we lift up our praise: “For thine is the power and the glory, forever! Amen!”
And what we receive through prayer all starts with our desire to spend time with our great and loving God, through our Lord Jesus Christ!