By: Scott Armstrong
Almost all of my life I have struggled with prayer. I am not talking about “arrow prayers” or praying continually (1 Thess. 5:17) throughout the day. I tend to do a lot of that, and it has been meaningful to see how God is at work in the mundane of every task or relationship.
I wrestle more with the focused times of intercession. Sometimes I have viewed those times as items on the to-do list, and other times I have found myself so distracted that I can hardly maintain a decent stream of thought – let alone conversation – with God. It is all quite embarrassing for a person who has been a Christian for 38 years and happens to be a missionary as well.
The two things that have recently given me hope are accountability (praying with someone else, namely my wife or kids) and using praise music to reflect and worship. I am growing in my understanding of prayer, and starting to enjoy it, thanks be to God.
Kallistos Ware, bishop in the Orthodox Church, http://myocn.net/metropolitan-kallistos-ware-prayer/tells this story: There was an old man who used to spend hours in church each day, and his friends said to him, ‘What are you doing during all that time?’ And he said, ‘I’m praying,’ and they said, ‘Oh, you must have a great many things you need to ask God for.’ With some indignation he said, ‘I’m not asking God for anything.’ ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘well, what are you doing all that time in church?’ And he replied, ‘I just sit and look at God and God sits and looks at me.’”
My best times of prayer have been when I lay my “list” to the side and begin to contemplate God. The requests are still shared, but the process becomes more of knowing – and being known by – Him.
In Luke 11, Jesus instructs us to ask, seek, and knock incessantly (v.9-10). However, he also identifies the best response to our prayer not as economic prosperity, physical healing, or the changing of our circumstances (things we often pray for), but rather his very presence:
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (v. 13).
Richard Rohr, the Franciscan Friar, puts it this way: “The answer to prayer is always the same – it’s the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Amen. Come, Holy Spirit. Help me to pray. Help me to know You abundantly and to be known fully by You.
Thanks Scott! I’ve struggled with prayer for years – just today my devotion was on Matthew 6:5-8; not praying for show like the pagans. Shouldn’t that mean my prayers are short and to the point? And if God truly knows me, why do I need to tell Him anything? I have been reminded through you and Emily that a lot of prayer is for my benefit – to sit and know that I am known by my Creator! To sit in His presence. Thanks for your article and vulnerability.