I wish I could tell you I have led a life of faithful prayer, but I haven't. I wish I could tell you I have always been excited about the idea of opening my heart to God in conversation, but I would be less than truthful. I wish I could tell you that I have always been quick to tap into the power and wisdom of God through discerning the working of the Spirit in my heart, but that has not been the case.
The truth is, I have had a love/ambivalent relationship with prayer for most of my adult life. That may be disturbing to people who expect pastors to be spiritual giants and models of Christian discipleship in all areas, but that is just the straight honest truth. A life of prayer has not come easy for me. Asking for help never has come easy, and neither has talking about my life.
Fortunately, it's not about me. What I have discovered through the years is that life is about seasons. Spiritual growth and being shaped by the Spirit is also about seasons. At different points in my journey, the Holy Spirit has chosen to have me focus on different elements of my character and spiritual maturity. I've had to journey through my anger, my compulsions, my self-centeredness, my arrogance, and a host of other places of spiritual formation.
Over the last three years, God has taken me on a journey of rediscovering the joy of nurturing a life of conversation with Him. Central to that journey has been my rediscovery two key passages: Luke 11:1 and Matthew 6:9-13. Finding life in these passages has been like finding a favorite tool you thought you lost, or uncovering a treasured keepsake that you feared had been forever misplaced.
There was something about the prayer life of Jesus that was attractive to a group of men. That says something! When a bunch of guys look at another guy who just finished praying and they say to him, "Man you have got to teach us to pray like that!" something special has just happened. The disciples of Jesus grew up around prayer, but when Jesus prayed, they said,
Lord, teach us to pray, (Luke 11:1)
That has become my prayer the last three years. That has become my prayer for us as a church. I do not pray that we embrace the idea of prayer. I do not pray that we have a deep appreciation for the biblical truths about prayer. I do not pray that we have complex systems and programs organized around the idea of prayer. I pray that we ask Jesus to teach us to actually pray.
Some people have a unique gift for making complex things very simple. I have a friend who is smart, I mean scary smart. But he also has a gift of making complex things simple with a knack he has for making analogies. He'll be talking about something and say, "You know, it's kind of like..."and suddenly he unlocks understanding through a connection with a simple example or model.
Jesus had that knack. He made the difficult understandable. He made what seemed mysterious and out of touch seem real and achievable. Jesus made prayer doable to a bunch of men. He gave them a model of prayer for life, a model that He used and that they could use.
Jesus teaches us that we can approach God as a loving father, our very own father.
Our Father in heaven, (Matthew 6:9)
I am rediscovering this relationship through prayer. I am rediscovering that every person has a deep hole in their life for a personal encounter with not only a God who is eternal, but a God whose love is sacred and who embodies the best of one of the most powerful of all human relationships - a dad. He is approachable, loving, caring, engaging, teaching, correcting, encouraging and inspiring.
Reveal who you are, (Matthew 6:9, The Message)
I'm learning to pray that I, those I love, and my community would honor God for who He really is. Where God is known, God is honored. Where God is honored, there is life. I'm asking God to give me a fresh desire to have our community know who the Father really is, not who we have made Him out to be. We desperately need a renewed perspective of God's character. Wherever you see brokenness, that is a place where there is a distorted understanding of God, and a place where God is therefore not honored. I'm praying with a renewed passion that our church and our community will be a place where the Lord's name is spoken of with greater clarity, joy, freedom, and boldness.
Set the world right, (Matthew 6:10, The Message)
I'm discovering I have a new longing for God to come and fix this mess. Oh, I know, the Lord expects us to engage our world with compassion, kindness, generosity, and creativity to address the needs around us. But there is a hunger for the full expression of God's rule that comes when we pray. Jesus came to bring salvation and yet he prayed for all to be made right - for the Kingdom of God to come in its fullest expression.
I'll keep sharing here more of the lessons I'm learning from this model of prayer. I invite you though to join me in asking Jesus, "Teach me to pray." The Holy Spirit - our Teacher and Comforter - the One Jesus promised to send, will guide you. When He does, respond. Let's experience together as a church family what it means to walk in a new season of prayer and conversation with God.