…close to the Arctic Circle (well, that’s what it felt like in Derbyshire – I even saw a real snowflake!)
I was at conference where Bishop Wallace Benn and Chris Green were speaking on prayer. Nothing earth-shattering, nothing exceptionally profound, just a useful reminder of those essential truths that we need constantly to remember when it comes to prayer:
Prayer is for our benefit, not for God’s. It’s not that we are asking the God of heaven and earth do our will, and try to make Him submit. It’s about learning to discern His will, and being ready to do whatever He asks of us. That’s the basic lesson of the Lord’s Prayer, and of Jesus praying in Gethsemane: not my will, but yours be done. (Luke 22:42)
This being the case, prayer starts not with our priorities and our agendas, but with the word of God. If prayer really is conversation between us and our Heavenly Father, then we have to let Him speak. We so often disconnect our prayer life from our Bible reading but the two really are inseparable. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. (John 15:7).
Prayer has a corporate as well as an individual aspect. If you look at the book of Acts, big things happened when the disciples met together to pray. God still blesses His church when His children gather in His name to seek His honour and His glory. Experience shows me, however, that it’s not enough for a church to create opportunities to pray. Midweek prayer meetings, prayer triplets etc. only catch on when there really is a vision for prayer by church members. We need more people like Epaphras who as Paul told the church in Colossae is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. (Col 4:12 – notice again the reference to the will of God!)
Prayer is something ultimately that is modelled rather than taught. We learn by seeing other people at prayer. So what do people learn about prayer when they come, for example, to a church service? We need to keep in step with the Spirit and make sure our intercessions, our personal prayer ministry etc. reflect a desire to know God’s will and to glorify His name.
As Lent comes upon us, it seems to me now is a good time of year to look again at our prayer life and make sure it is Bible-based and God-honouring, in order that we may know the joy of God’s will done in and through us.