Saturday, 16 December 2017

Prayer is hard but as natural as life itself

WHEN, as a little boy, I was taken to chapel by my parents, I distinctively remember the minister telling us

WHEN, as a little boy, I was taken to chapel by my parents, I distinctively remember the minister telling us that prayer was difficult. “We all need help,” he said gravely.

I remember the occasion well because even as a young lad I challenged him on the matter. “Difficult? It is the easiest thing in the world! Close your eyes and tell God what you want. I, for one, can give a veritable shopping list of things I really, really want. And it is just as easy to ask God to ‘deliver us from evil’, including that rather tiresome maths teacher who insists on making my life so miserable.”

The problem is that we tend to become fixed in our understanding and practice of prayer. If we are not taught how to develop our prayer-life, our spiritual appetites coarsen or become sterile.

It is no wonder, then, that many folk soon give up prayer altogether as childish or regressive. The minister was right. We all need help to pray; to move beyond the self-centred acquisitiveness of the playground to the open pastures of joy and delight, fully engaged in life’s realities and responsibilities.

Prayer must be fostered by love and discipleship and that means keeping close to Christ. When, for example, did you last express your love of God, or your deep personal trust in his wisdom and guidance?

When did you last offer a word of regret for a word or action that has caused another pain or resolve to repair a broken relationship that “I should have attempted a long time ago”?

Prayer is not confined to the sanctuary or the closet. It is not dependent on words or elegant phrases. Prayer pulsates with our heartbeat and determines how we relate to our neighbours, our tasks and the wide world around us.

As the momentum of prayer develops, we should expect certain things to happen. Our view of God will change. Our view of other people will change. We will want to engage in activities which once we were pleased to leave to others for “they are beyond our interest, our strength, our abilities”.

I agree. That prospect is enough to put anyone off prayer. But remember, we are speaking of a process that is as natural and as wonderful as life itself. Let Christ teach the way.

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