July 2014

What is the best way to pray?

Prayer, like most spiritual practices, is subject to a spectrum of opinion and conviction as to how it is best practiced.

Prayer in a word, means different things to different people. Typically we associate prayer with some form of communication and personal encounter with God. The term prayer has been applied to everything from experiencing a silent awareness of His presence to a cacophonous expression of verbal petition.

There is tension therefore, particularly within Christian ranks, between the silent end of the spectrum in what might be termed communion, versus the verbal petition end of the spectrum which could be termed intercession. Jesus validated this wide spectrum of prayer Himself, by demonstrating a prayer life that embodied both communion with His Father in silence as well intercession with strong crying and tears for the needs of others.

Let me share a New Testament illustration of each. First we have the picture of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus. Her simple enjoyment of His presence is a beautiful illustration of contemplative communion. She chose His presence over performance, unlike her sister Martha, and Jesus rewarded her by affirming that she had chosen the “better” part. (Luke 10:42) To all those like Mary who are naturally inclined to the communion side of the spectrum of prayer this is a very nurturing and encouraging story.

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7 Ways to Touch God’s Heart in Prayer

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD. Isaiah 1:18b (NASB)

Appealing to God to answer prayer can be likened to the ways in which children learn to convince their parents to act on their behalf. There are certain approaches that are more effective than others. In fact, the basis from which appeals are made can make a huge difference in how a request is answered.

When my firstborn son was three he loved going to the park near our home where there was a playground. Like many parents, I was sometimes too preoccupied to give him the attention he desired and occasionally found myself procrastinating in doing the things I had promised him. One day my little guy came up to me holding in his left hand a small bible we had given him. With his right hand he was pointing to it emphatically and looking me directly in the eyes he pleaded “Go park!”

Since my conversion to Christianity the year of his birth I have always unashamedly made the Bible my handbook for life. My son knew that from seeing me studying it daily, searching its pages for guidance, using it for family devotions, and teaching from it as a pastor. Needless to say his words and actions immediately melted my heart and without hesitation I put aside what I was doing in order to take him to the playground. Kid’s know how to touch their parents (and grandparents) hearts don’t they?

How much more can we as children of our Heavenly Father know how to touch His heart? The truth is there are proven ways to convince God to answer our prayers! I use the word “convince” here advisedly, understanding that prayer is not so much a process of convincing God as it is discovering His will and His ways in order to use that as the basis for our request.

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Love on its knees

Most Christians would agree that demonstrating a self-sacrificial love for others is the essence of the gospel message and the highest form of obedience we can render to the New Commandment of Jesus. Our common concept of expressing Christ’s love is typically associated with our feet through going, our hands through serving and our mouths through proclaiming. But how often do we associate His love expressed from our knees through praying?

We think of love, and rightly so, as an action or deed done specifically for the benefit of another. Jesus, our example, expressed His love throughout His earthly ministry for those He came to save. He went from village to village with His feet, He healed all who came to Him with His hands, He proclaimed the Gospel with His mouth and yes, right up to His arrest in the Garden He agonized in prayer upon His knees.

His love, referred to in the Greek as agape, is a sacrificial kind of love. It is a love that found its purest expression in Jesus laying down His life for the salvation of human kind. Our expressions of His love for others therefore will always extract a personal cost from us as well. Like all forms of agape love, the price of loving others from our knees in prayer demands a sacrifice of our time, our effort, our comfort, and personal preferences.

Such prayer, motivated by love, is what the Bible calls intercession. It can be said that intercession is agape love on its knees.

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