“Lord, teach us to pray.” – Luke 11:1 NIV
“Do not have your concert first and tune your instruments afterward. Begin the day with God.”
For years, I wrote these words of the late missionary Hudson Taylor on the front of my daily devotional booklet, which I received monthly in the mail. The back of the cover at that time was blank, and I used it to list prayer needs. I kept it with my Bible near my prayer chair.
Nowadays I receive the daily devotional readings via email. I thought it would save them the cost of printing and mailing, but I miss the old way. It was simple. And it was physical – a visual reminder to tune myself up before launching into the day.
When we visited the North Cascades Smokejumper base in Winthrop, Washington, this past summer, we learned about the difference between round and rectangular parachutes. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, but the main thing about a parachute is that, for everyone but smokejumpers and skydivers, a parachute is an emergency piece of equipment. It’s there, but you hope you never have to use it.
My prayer life, without the visual reminders and the discipline to take the time, morphs into a parachute mode: There for emergencies only.
Many are the books and articles written on prayer, but let’s focus on Jesus’s attitude toward prayer, as shown through His answer to the disciples’ request, “Teach us to pray,” and through His own prayer life.
First, prayer is private. “When you pray,” Jesus instructed His disciples, “go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private” (Matthew 6:6). And He set the example: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). You’ll find Jesus often going off by Himself to a mountaintop or a remote place to spend time with the Father.
Which brings us to the second point I want to make: Prayer is a relationship, not a religious activity (Henry Blackaby). Note the words “pray to your Father.”
Relationships involve regular communication, involving both speaking and listening: “A man prayed and at first thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized prayer is listening.” (Søren Kierkegaard)
Third, prayer is concise. “When you pray,” Jesus said, “don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!” (Matthew 6:7–8)
In the words of C. H. Spurgeon, “True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer than a fine oration of great length.”
And finally, prayer is constant. You don’t contact those you love only when you need something. You want to spend every minute you can with them. So it is with God.
Prayer is our line of communication, time carved out of a busy schedule to talk and listen, to get to know our Father and His Son better.
Prayer is not a parachute, to be used only in times of emergency.
In the words of George Herbert, “Prayer should be the key of the day and the lock of the night.”
Lord, teach me to pray. Amen.
Read and meditate on Matthew 6:5–13
© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.