THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER
Prayer is more than just muttering some words and then attaching Jesus’ name to the end. And true prayer that God hears must be offered in a humble and contrite spirit. The prayers today which are wound around taking authority and casting down principalities and declaring things are no more than self serving diatribes. Prayer used to be a sacred place where we meet with a Holy God and a Risen Christ and we ourselves were changed. And after much repentance and worship we made our requests known unto God with a benediction which said “Thy will be done”. And we were not ashamed to leave it all in God’s hands. Today men and women approach God and demand that He do this or do that and shower them with material things. That is not prayer. That is self righteous foolishness.
We are invited to come boldly before the throne of grace to obtain mercy and grace. So many use prayer as a vehicle to get their own way and to wield power that they know not of. The power they seek can only be found in the humility and brokenness they exhibit before our Great God. The King has pointed His royal scepter toward us and we can come before Him and speak. This is a great and sacred privilege which above all should change our hearts. They that come and command God as their servant have a self serving caricature of the Thrice Holy Creator. This is no “Polly want a cracker” time where we sit on the heavenly Santa’s lap and recite a list of our wants and desires. A true time of prayer is a holy place where we present ourselves upon His altar and the Spirit takes our lives and makes them a living sacrifice.
Anyone who has really entered into a true time of prayer considers his requests as secondary. To be sure God answers prayer, but when we truly wait upon the Lord in His very presence we are changed into His image. Can we truly bow before the Risen Christ and remain unbroken? I think not. Yes there are times when we can speak with our heavenly Father while driving or at work or at other times, in fact all times. But when we walk away from the temporal pressures and get alone with God and seek His face without time restraints, well, there is the holy ground. It is those times when we must become the wet clay that begs to be remolded. It is in those times when the Spirit pulls back the veil a little more and we are overwhelmed by what we see and experience.
Oh, just a tiny glimpse of our Lord and Savior and we are humbled beyond words. Suddenly the cares of this world seem so trivial and the burdens we have carried slide right off. We have been with Christ and the effects of that visitation are life changing. Oh that we would spend more time sitting at His feet and gazing at His face! This is not eastern mysticism. This is a sanctified and hallowed place where the Spirit works His ministry within our hearts. This is where the purist of worship comes forth with the Spirit as our Worship Leader. And this is where we are once again surrendered to Christ as our only Lord. Prayer is a colossal gift of grace. No one deserves it but few truly practice it.
After the Industrial Revolution many cultures began to be transfixed on material things and earthly success even more than before. It was now possible through hard work and inventions to elevate one’s earthly existence and be surrounded by material comforts. And in that process work and recreation became the two standards by which people measured their life and happiness. The country known as America was founded upon the entrepreneurial spirit, and the Revolutionary War itself was over money. And once America was free from the bondage of England’s taxes it experienced prosperity like no other in history.
And as prosperity and material accoutrements grew among the people the time people would spend in prayer was depleted. In fact prayer now became almost non-existent in the Sunday gatherings except for a few token prayers offered by one of the church leaders. And prayer in the lives of church members dwindled down until it is now an embarrassment to our God. And most people who even do pray do it quickly and at convenient times. The times which call men to separate themselves and spend elongated times before God have all but vanished. And yet every church still claims to believe in prayer. That is such a hypocrisy. And in a stunning display of self affirmation most churches even teach about prayer from time to time but still prayer remains a token among them.
Preachers are supposed to be given to prayer and the ministry of the Word. But most western pastors spend much time on the phone, much time a lunches with others, much time in church meetings, much time on golf courses, much time planning, much time at staff meetings, and much time looking for sermons. But if the truth were known just how much time the average pastor spends in prayer that man might be considered a heathen.
And when we do not labor in prayer and sacrifice other endeavors in order to pray than we reject God’s presence and power and we openly reveal that we believe we can do all things through our own strength. And what difference do we have from those who do not know Christ? And by living for ourselves we have forfeited the most vital and life changing power every offered to a believer. How many baptized church members have no idea what it means to be in and experience the very presence of the Lord? How many believe that God comes only through good worship songs and He comes in a little better when those songs go up a key?
Let us be honest since we do not wish to lie to God. The cares of this world have done battle against the prayer lives of God’s people and through many decades the cares have muscled out any fervency and sacrifice in prayer. And the results have been disastrous and widespread. Like a plague, the results of a lack of prayer have forced the church to resort to all kinds of entertainment and new and exciting and false teachings. Instead of the power of prayer the church now feeds upon the power of personality and the power of nationalism and the power of the ecclesiastical construct. And now the well oiled church machine is started up every Sunday morning and cranks out a service which satisfies the multitudes for another week. That is not the Christian faith; that is a religious machine.
But the prayer closet remains open for all who desire to meet and even dine with the Risen Christ. Imagine Jesus came back to earth for a week. And like Willy Wonka He sent out only one hundred invitations for believers to attend a dinner in His honor. And imagine you were one of the one hundred who received an invitation. But the dinner would be 1000 miles away from where you lived. Now I ask you, if you truly believed it was the real Jesus who invited you would you think it was too much of a journey. Would you think the expense of travelling would be too great to go? Or would you do anything you needed to do in order to get to that dinner? Of course you would walk if you had to in order to see and dine with Jesus.
Well that invitation has been given to all true believers. Jesus has offered an open invitation to His followers to come and dine with Him. And you and I have received that invitation. Do we talk about? Do we teach about it? Do we reminisce about it? Do we agree that it is wonderful? Do we make plans over and over to go? Or do we actually go and dine with the Risen Christ? You see this issue of prayer is more than just a perfunctory exercise which can find a convenient slot in our busy lives. And then when we say a few words we say “Amen” and walk away feeling like we have fulfilled a religious obligation.
True prayer takes place in the realm of the Spirit. It is a great mystery that is filled with glory. There is much we cannot know about prayer this side of heaven. But His presence, like the shekinah that dwelt between the cherubim, reveals itself when we pray. This is not transcendental meditation. This is not astro-projection. This is a profound sacredness which we have carelessly called prayer. It is a meeting on earth between He who dwells in the throne room of heaven and His pilgrim follower. The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Hallowed be Thy name”. Prayer is a time for worship and bowing before the Risen Majesty and allowing His presence to change your heart. It is a glorious mystery and it should be what we crave. The place of true prayer in many ways is a true season of escape from this temporal world and transports us into the eternal realm. And although we still have this clothing of flesh our inward man is awakened with spiritual life when we are in His presence. Besides life eternal with Christ in heaven, the Word of God and prayer are the two greatest gifts of grace.
Bibles have made a lot of money for people. But since prayer is not a financial commodity it remains an historical curiosity. The carnal man never realizes that the treasures of Christ await him in the prayer closet. So instead of Christ he seeks wealth, political power, national allegiance, and material goods. But there are a few, a very few, who know that He from whose face the worlds fled, meets with His own around the world in the secret place of the Almighty called prayer.
But before you enter into that place you must go with humility, brokenness, and a sense of your need of Him and His grace. And when you have a true visitation of His glorious presence and His all consuming holiness you should be shaken and changed by this incredible truth -
He desired to meet with you. Selah.