As a child I knelt down beside my bed, closed my eyes and asked God to look after mum and dad and nan and my little brother. As I grew I started adding requests – a new bike, that the lump in my mouth wasn’t cancer, and so on. This to me was prayer.
We seemed to pray that way in church also – the prayers were longer but we were always on our knees, always eyes closed, always asking God for things, lots of things including care for people overseas, people in wars, and so on.
That was the extent of my experiences with prayer.
I fell away from Church and God, lived a wild life for ten years, got sick and came close to death. Nobody knew what was wrong so I tried alternatives, they didn’t help either so I tried God. He had answers.
I had no teacher so I just read the Bible my own way, and tried to put what I read into practice. I memorised the ten commandments and repeated them and ploughed through them every day as I went for a jog. My health slowly improved, I returned to work, and kept my daily practices. The bible had come to life for me as I read it, and I was stunned by how much God revealed through it.
One day I realized that I had been praying all this time – eyes open, walking or jogging, in the car, on the train, at work. I saw that prayer is much, much more than only eyes closed on knees for ten minutes. I discovered that I had been praying for hours at a time. Sometimes all day long!
Prayer is when we come to God, come into his presence. We may come to ask for things, and we may also come to listen, or simply to be in his presence. I realized that’s why I love prayer so much – its where I focus on God, when I specifically come into his presence, and where I experience his love for me. Its also the place or the attitude where I read my Bible, and where God teaches me.
Maybe prayer is an attitude as much as it is a physical practice. For me the attitude most definitely is of coming into God’s presence.
As a child I used to think of God in heaven – a planet far away where he lived. One day, if I was really good, I would go to that planet after I died. I dont recall being taught that God is present, that we come into his presence, that he desires a close and personal relationship with us. Not that I was seeking a relationship. I just wanted to know him because I found that as I learned about God I also learned about myself. As I learned more about God I wanted to become more like him and that became a vision for me.
God offers us much more than life after death on his planet. If I read the Bible carefully I see the same message everywhere – when we love God, when we try to obey his commands, he comes to us, he remains with us, he guides and teaches us, he changes us. We can become more like God. We can possess his qualities.
Jesus referred often to another idea we often overlook– when we pray and align our will with God’s will, we experience his kingdom: “Your Kingdom Come” he taught his disciples to pray.
The question may be how can we do this? The answer is through prayer.
In prayer we come into God’s presence – we don’t have to speak we can simply “be”. Some find this hard to do – although we are human beings, we behave like human doings. Learning to be still and silent is called meditation by some and it is recognized for its qualities – learning to be still and silent in God’s presence is something altogether better.
In prayer we learn more about God and begin to align our thoughts with his thoughts, begin to love God and each other the way he loves us, begin to act in ways that are God like. Instead of bending God to our will we start to bend our will to God’s.
Prayer is where we exercise our God nature; I go to the gym to develop my physical self, I go to prayer to exercise my spiritual self. I eat three meals a day so I don’t starve my physical body, I need to go to prayer regularly and often every day so I don’t starve my spiritual body. – MCT