Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Gift Restructured: Prayer

I attended a “School of Prayer” for a sweet season of my life, while I was in grad school and working part-time.  The School of Prayer was a highlight, absolutely a privilege to attend.  It was really called the “School” but it was just this:  a weekly prayer meeting, just half hour before an evening worship service.  There was no sharing or discussion other than kind greetings between early comers.  And then there was prayer:  scriptural, powerful, intimate, united.  Unspeakable grace to have spent hours there...

Besides that time, I’ve been through some less .... something....  prayer times where I’ve felt like I’m checking chores off a list or waiting for Chemistry class to be done.  There certainly are prayer meetings that have earned the reputation, the stereotype "Boring." But it doesn't have to be like this!  

A precious group of friends in our city recently heard from a pastor about prayer and since then, our times in prayer with them have been restructured to something like this:
  • We gather to worship and to pray.  He is not our servant or simply our supplier.  He is God.  We start with worship because it’s right in every way.  This might mean a song but very often it means Scripture may be read aloud or praises just prayed aloud to extol our God.   (Consider the Lord’s Prayer, the Psalms, how most of the pastoral letters open with worshipful prayers.)
  • We seek our Father’s heart together.    His kingdom and His righteousness are our first aim.  (Matthew 6:33).  We don’t need to spell out all our issues and concerns to each other first (though we may also need another time to visit for that purpose.)  We pray aloud the things that are most concerning us, burdening our hearts.  Those who are listening and praying with us can then pray for us, for this need too.  
  • We pray united.   Since there’s no pressure for who has to pray next, we can listen fully and pray in agreement with others while they’re praying.   "Devoting ourselves to prayer", "with one accord".....  Acts 1:14.  
  • We pray for a time...  maybe 10 minutes, maybe hours.  We might read Scripture aloud at different interludes between prayers.  We might close with worship again- musical, scriptural, or words prayed aloud.  No checklists, chores or assignments... although there is labor, fervency, sweat and tears to be poured out.  Hebrews 13:12-14.  Oh for the exceeding joy of this:  Prayer!  
That’s it.  Pure Grace.  This is the stuff that marked the early disciples and martyrs as they gathered together, it marked the filling of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the disciples, it marked the expansion of the church! Intimacy with the Father, together with His children.   His Word pulsing, the lifeblood of the branches that wrap themselves tight to the Vine.  His Word directing and fueling our prayers for each other and for His kingdom and His glory.   

Let's not squish this most holy, privileged work and joy, our responsibility as disciples, into the last few minutes of our time together.  May we be a people who enter into prayer together, for each other and for the world!

Oh God, teach us to pray!!  Lead us in your joy, near to your heart, and bring your kingdom, Lord!

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