OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire # 243 Printing and Prayer
Friends of mine run a printing company and so when I visit them I often spend time at their shop. I love to watch the machinery in action because so much of it is very simple in concept, but hard to automate. Take the process of printing, for example, which is applying ink to a piece of paper. We experimented with it as children when we drew on an eraser and pressed the image onto a notebook. Printing is a simple concept, but obviously more is involved if we want to publish a book at any kind of productive rate.
Prayer has this same kind of simplicity and complexity. At the centre of it all is the simple idea that we talk with God. What could be easier than conversation, right? The complexity comes as we move to make it an automatic process of our hearts and minds.
We get the idea from the gospels that it was not easy to teach the disciples to pray. We have the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 and a slightly different version in Luke 11, which suggests multiple attempts by Jesus to teach them. Luke 18 records a parable designed to teach them pray and not give up. Jesus modelled prayer by going off to pray (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 6), and sometimes he even took disciples with him, as was the case at the time of his transfiguration (Luke 9:28). But even with all of this attention, the disciples didn’t get it since at Gethsemane they kept falling asleep even after Jesus told them to watch and pray (Matthew 26:41).
We see ourselves in these passages. Deep, passionate prayer does not come as naturally as we might think. The simple prayer “Lord save me” rolls off the tongue easily enough in a thousand variations, but it is hard to sit down for more than a few moments without becoming bored, distracted, tired, or deciding that more pressing things draw our attention.
How do we change this? After all, we see glimpses from scripture that prayer can be more. The psalmist was passionate about prayer. It seemed natural for Jesus to withdraw to those lonely places to pray and he poured himself out at Gethsemane. Indeed, Jesus’ last words on the cross were in prayer: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46*)
Prayer changed for Jesus’ followers after the resurrection, and so we read in Acts 2:42 that “they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” After the resurrection, prayer became as natural to them as eating.
There are two aspects of the resurrection we need to grip if our prayers are to change. First, we need to meet the risen Jesus. Lots of people believe in dead jesus, the teacher / healer / philosopher / doer of good deeds, but that is not enough. We need to encounter Alive Jesus, the Son of God raised from the dead: “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) Why should we expect prayer to be meaningful or effective if we don’t actually believe the One to whom we pray?
Second, prayer changes when we come face to face with the grace and power of God in the resurrection. God wanted so much to have a relationship with me that Jesus died to make it possible. Paul said it clearly enough, “While we were still sinners Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8) but Jesus said it first: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son...” (John 3:16) And then to demonstrate His power, the Father raised the Son. Doesn’t it make a difference to know God would do this for us? Doesn’t it change the way we think about God? Doesn’t it make us realize there is nothing God cannot do?
This same God wants to chat with us, for us to talk with Him and He with us. As I come to terms with this, it makes it easier to pray. I am more motivated and interested. Being devoted to prayer as they were in Acts 2:42 doesn’t seem so odd.
Next week we’ll continue to look at prayer. In the meantime, I hope this helps. Be on fire.
OnFire is a weekly letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Troy is the Pastor of Family Ministries at Highfield Baptist Church in Moncont NB Canada. This letter published Dec 1, 2010. *Scripture taken from the New International Version. To subscribe or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Archives are located at www.onfireletter.com. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com.