Monday, January 6, 2014

Portraits of Prayer - Week Four

This past summer, I wrote a 7-week prayer guide entitled Portraits of Prayer. As I began investigating prayer ministry more deeply this past summer, I realized that over the years, God has already given me an abundance of insight on the subject of prayer. As I reread these insights from past blogs, I was struck at how the progression of insight fell right into place--as if it were a study guide of sorts. Taking those blogs with some additions and rewriting, I wrote Portraits of Prayer and I am happy to share it with you here over the next eight weeks. Wait, I said 7-week prayer guide didn't I? Why eight weeks then? Well, I thought it appropriate to take a short break during the week of Christmas so that we may focus on the coming of the Savior. Enjoy!


Pictures of Prayer

Young Man praying

digitally altered in Photoshop
When I was in high school I had the joy of singing in the choir and every year we sang Handel’s “Messiah” for our Christmas concert. Handel wrote this oratorio containing many solos immediately followed by elaborate chorale arrangements. The solos in themselves are beautifully melodic and filled the air with words of God’s glory and grace. Then the chorale pieces continued the heart of the solo’s message in four equal and unique voices singing separately and together in a symphony of sound. Just as both the solos and the choir pieces are truly exquisite in their own unique way, God wants us to be in prayer alone and in concert with each other. Neither way is less pleasing or preferential to him as they are both sweet music to his ears.

Prayer is conversation between God and me—we talk with each other. I come to him with my questions, my fears and wounds, my needs, my sins, and he answers me, instructs me, comforts me, provides for and forgives me. As my Heavenly Father wanting to spend time with his child, he wants me to come to him with everything. One way in which we hear his part of the conversation is by reading, meditating, and embracing what he tells us in his Holy Word. Ephesians 6:18a (NIV) says to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” He’s telling us that he wants us coming to him and him alone with our fears, our needs, our everything, seeking his comfort, his blessings, his healing and his grace.

In Matthew 15 we are told the story of a Canaanite woman who sought Jesus out and pleaded with him to heal her daughter. He didn’t answer her—not a word. She continued and the disciples urged him to send her away. Again he puts her off but she does not budge. Her faith in him and his ability and compassion is evident, even more so as she expresses her complete undeserved-ness of his attention. Her desperate faith moves him to act with great compassion and the immediate healing of her daughter.

What a beautiful picture of personal prayer. We don’t deserve to be in God’s presence. He would be well within his rights as our Holy God to ignore us, to send us away in our sinful misery, but he doesn’t. His silence is merely his way of allowing me to grow into the faith he’s planted in me. He may not answer, but he is listening as I gain a greater understanding of his holiness verses my sinfulness that cultivates a much greater appreciation for his grace and blessings (which we sometimes refer to as “answered prayer”). The act of prayer, the practice of prayer, changes me to my very core. It’s me acknowledging the holiness and supremacy of God and the inexplicable grace and blessing of his love and his ceaseless desire to be in relationship with me. It’s me being wrapped in the arms of He Who Is Love and cherished by my Creator as his precious child. I can’t walk away from that without being touched and transformed by him.

Often we think of corporate prayer as a congregation reciting a pre-formed Prayer of Confession or Affirmation of Faith or the Lord’s Prayer together during worship. Perhaps your idea of corporate prayer is when everyone bows their heads while one person speaks prayer aloud and the whole group affirms it by saying aloud in unison “Amen” at the end. Yes, this is a picture of corporate prayer, much like a choir that sings an elaborate choral arrangement—each singer with his own distinct part which is a small piece of the larger arrangement. Only when all of the parts are combined is the music a complete and beautiful prayer.

Then there is the story in Mark 2. Jesus is teaching in a home with a crowd of people surrounding him inside and out. We are told that four friends carry a paralyzed man to this place so that the man might be healed by Jesus. When they saw they couldn’t get through the crowd to get their friend to Jesus, they carried him to the roof of the home and dug through it above the place where Jesus was teaching. These four devoted friends with their “won’t quit” attitude painstakingly lowered their broken friend to the floor at Jesus’ feet. Jesus healed this man because of his friends’ tenacious resolve to carry their friend into the holy presence of God—to put their friend within arm’s reach of the God of compassion, restoration and healing.

This is the picture of corporate prayer that holds great significance for me. When I share a prayer request or a prayer of joy with friends, family, and designated prayer warriors, it’s because I feel I need help in lifting the burden of the request to God or that more voices need to be shouting the Lord’s praises for the blessings and joy he has given. Ephesians 6:18b (NIV) instructs “With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” God is telling us to pray for and with each other. We have a responsibility to our fellow man to love him as God loves him. Sharing someone’s burden, bringing them into God’s presence through prayer, lifting them up in prayer is a great honor and bonds us together as only God’s Spirit can do in us. There are times when my faith is shaken, when my spirit is confused, and my mind seems to be working against me rather than for me and I need help—I need friends to bring me to the feet of Jesus for healing and restoration because I’m not going to get there on my own. I need prayer warriors who aren’t put off by the barriers that can sometimes block my path, but are fueled by those barriers and work harder towards the goal of my healing and renewal. This is the kind of pray-er I want to be for others and I believe God is calling and teaching me to be.

Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence. —W. S. Bowd

Describe your current prayer picture. What would your ideal personal prayer time look like? Pray and ask God  what kind of pray-er  he is calling you to be.

1 comment:

Audrey said...

This is beautifully and powerfully written Maureen. I am trying to incorporate more prayer into my day to day living. I've found that I need to listen for his guidance as I make decisions about my life. Pray for me and my prayer life...pray that it grows, and that in turn I grow closer to our God!