“Now in the morning…..He departed to a solitary place and there He prayed.” Mark 1:35
“..when you pray, go into your room and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matthew 6:6
“He went a little farther, and fell on the ground and prayed…..” Mark 14:35
“…pray without ceasing, in everything giving thanks, for this is the Will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16
As the title suggests; it is my experience that we are a process oriented people or culture; especially in the “west”. It goes something like this; knowledge of proper process drives the appropriate behavior. Appropriate behavior drives the desired outcomes. Desired outcomes equals long term success. Thus knowing and following correct processes will lead to ultimate success. Has to happen, case closed.
I believe that this notion is ever increasingly reinforced in our technologically based, information age. What’s an example? Turn on your laptop; it has to “boot-up”, it has to run through its configurations and if you do something to interrupt that process, at the very least, you’ve caused chaos and additional time to be added to the process. At the worst, you’ll cause the machine to “lock-up” requiring a return to the beginning and repeating of the process. Again, don’t get me wrong, I applaud and try to embrace the opportunities that this new technology brings. This very post and site would not exist except for the new technology which supports it. However, the challenge that arises with so many of theses processes is that process completion, that is successfully moving from one step to the other until the process is completed, becomes our basic motivation driving our behavior without understanding or embracing the fundamental reason the process exists in the first place!
So now that brings us to specific topic to explore today; is there a process for prayer? In many books about, sermons about, blog posts about prayer, there often seems to be. Again, what are some examples?
First, let’s start with time of day to pray. Some would say that the very first act after becoming conscious enough to function, should be to pray. There is an aspect that says that anything that is done before the morning prayer is not “spiritually covered” because the day has not been prayed over. For others, the appropriate time to pray is in the evening. This allows for the full days blessings and sins to be covered by thanksgiving praise and contrite confession. Some set an alarm to remind them throughout their busy day to stop and take time for prayer.
How about posture? Is prayer more effective when kneeling or is sitting okay? On a side note, I was raised in a denomination where kneeling was the appropriate posture for prayer thus each pew had a kneeling bench. How uncomfortable I was when I would go to a church who had no kneeling bench and we sat and prayed!!! Can I pray while standing or even walking? Do I have to close my eyes when I pray? (Oh by the way if your answer to this is yes; please, please don’t pray while driving) What do I do with my hands while praying; fold them, clasp them together, is holding hands with someone else better?
What about my words and/or their sequence? Using the Lord’s Prayer as a guide, I’ve heard it preached that every prayer needs to start with an acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty, a confession, a petition and proclamation of praise. And what about Amen?
So let’s take a look at Jesus Christ and His examples. Did Jesus pray in the morning; most certainly. Yet His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was in the evening. Jesus posture for prayer? The only reference to Jesus’ posture while praying was in the garden and the gospels referencing Him kneeling and falling face down. Jesus Christ did give us some guidelines about praying in secret. Jesus also gave us the Lord’s prayer as an example. Yet He also told us we could pray for anything and His examples of prayer the night he was betrayed, in John’s Gospel, reflect other than the strict words of the Lord’s prayer.
What’s my point? First, Jesus prayed. Jesus, God Himself, the One and Only Begotten Son of the One Father, God in Heaven, prayed to His Father. Yet one get’s the sense that Jesus prayed as a characteristic of life, a way of being in relationship with His (and our) Heavenly Father. Prayer wasn’t a task to be performed, a ritual to be completed or a process to be followed. Prayer was not solely (or souly) a means to an end, but a wonderful experience in and of itself. The goal of prayer was not to lead to a blessing, but the ability to pray to, to connect to, the Creator of all the universe was a blessing in itself.
Dear Sisters and Brothers; do you pray in the morning; awesome, in the evening; wonderful. Are there times when you put a note, set an alarm, ask a friend, to remind you to pray; I can dig it. Do you pray kneeling, lying down, standing up, walking, running, even driving; given that your goal is to connect in relationship and love with Almighty God; more power to you. Do you use the Lord’s prayer? Are there special words that you believe come from the Spirit that help to focus your being on connecting with God that you use with each prayer; fantastic. Bottom line, is prayer more than just another something Christian to do, something required in a certain way, a specified number of times, a specified position over a specified time frame? Is prayer less about a desired outcome after prayer, but more the coming into relationship with Our Heavenly Father during prayer?
My prayer is that you and I will experience prayer as something more than a process to be completed, but as connection to be exceedingly cherished and a need ever more constantly fulfilled.
Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we praise You and give You ceaseless thanksgiving that in Your Mercy and Love towards us, You have seen fit to provide for us the avenue to come to You with our thoughts, our concerns, our fears, our desires, our praises and yes, even our confessions through the connection of prayer. Pour out Your Spirit upon us that we would see prayer as more than a process but the natural way of being and interacting as Your Creation, with You the Creator. Forgive us when we fall to the temptation of looking at prayer as nothing more than a menial process, to be robotically completed with little focus or intention. Allow us to experience You, Your Love, Your Mercy, Your Power through prayer that we may find ourselves ever more desirous to be in that relationship with you. That in and through prayer we will continue to praise Your Most Holy Name. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen