I have been giving prayer a lot of thought lately. Why? Because prayer is a spiritual discipline that requires the participant to be thoughtful about it. In fact, I pray the least when my heart and mind aren’t engaged in a healthy struggle over my surrender, trust and relationship to God.
I have the great challenge and privilege of being the pastor to a wonderfully authentic church! Redwood Hills certainly doesn’t have it all figured out, and that’s not really our goal either. We’re a simple community whose vision is to be a church who seeks “Hearing…Being…and Serving“, and while this is requires a long journey, I’ve been thrilled to witness so many people engage in this vision and make a point of really exploring what it means to follow Jesus in our culture.
Our current teaching series has been one on Prayer. We’ve used Jesus’ model for prayer (Matthew 6:4-9) as the back drop and I must say that I’ve both loved teaching on prayer as well as finding myself learning so much for myself. It’s been a worthwhile challenge to explore prayer and its effectiveness in my relationship to others and God. I’ve also been reminded of some of the most simple truths about prayer that sometimes we lose track of. For instance…”God has a knack for wanting to answer our prayers”. Simple…true…easy to forget.
Last Sunday I read a sentence from Thomas Cranmer’s “Book of Common Prayer”.
“Almighty God, to whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid.”
In NT Wright’s book called, “The Lord and His Prayer”, he makes the reader stop and focus on the words…”all desires known…” and asks the question, how do we respond to this? Is it a promise, or a threat?
Think about that for a moment. If you believe God knows all your desires, then you must also consider how that truth affects the way you approach prayer. If we see it as a promise than we’re more likely to be authentic in our prayers, willing to let God’s spirit transform our hearts and minds into His likeness. But, if we react to this truth as if it’s a threat,well then we’re much more likely to keep prayer a surface level and gaurded one-way conversation.
This brings me back to the need to be thoughtful about prayer. It’s our thoughtfulness that forces us to wrestle with these truths and how our inner-most being is responding to them. I’m trying to see it as a promise that I may pray openly, honestly, and not be afraid to sort through the crap in my heart that desperately needs to be healed, freed, or completely given up. The funny thing is, that with the extra effort and thought given to how and why I pray, I want to pray more and it all seems to be more simple than before.
I guess you could say there’s a certain freedom in knowing your heart is completely exposed whether you intend to expose it or not.
Love and Peace.