Prayer is something most are willing to discuss and would like to trust. However, most of us admit that we don't pray as much as we should and that we would like to know how to pray more effectively. Most of all, we don't understand why praying can become such hard and tedious work. Prayer seemed so natural for Jesus. Why is it so hard for us?
To make my feelings on prayer even more complicated, much of my work with congregations in transition focuses on prayer.
We pray for the Lord to strengthen and sharpen our focus as we wait for their new ministry partner.
We pray for their new minister and the congregation from which he comes.
We pray for the new minister's family and their transition to a new place.
We pray for us to be patient and to wait on the Lord, not rushing things to make them fit our timetable.
We pray for God's mission and vision for the congregation to become the lifeblood of what they do in the community and around the world.
We pray for the impact on the lost people the congregation is trying to reach.
We pray for the search team as they seek to be led by the Spirit.
We pray for the elders to be true shepherds during this time that often feels so unsettling to their church family.
Prayer is the fabric that holds the interim season together as we yearn for our hearts to be in tune with the Lord's work.
Prayer is also very important to me and to my ministry online.[NOTE] Unfortunately, however, I know my life is not framed and filled with prayer as much as Jesus' life was. I want it to be, yet this "less than Jesus" feeling points to a shortcoming in my spiritual life that can only be filled with meaningful prayer time with the Father.
Most importantly, however, I am interested in prayer because I want it to be more pervasively woven into my life. I want prayer to be the "spirit-natural" air I breathe. I want prayer to be present in every aspect of my life. I want prayer to be my vital link to God, yet I fear I don't cherish the "lonely places" and my time with the Father with the same passion my Savior did.
When Luke puts together his "orderly account" (Luke 1:1-4) of Jesus' life, he makes clear that prayer framed the life of our Savior. Jesus' teaching on prayer and his time in prayer reoccur throughout his story of Jesus. Luke wants us to know that prayer was the fabric that held Jesus' life and ministry together. Nearly every key event is touched by prayer. Nearly every key movement of Jesus' teaching mentions prayer in some way. Jesus' life was so characterized by prayer that when Judas needed to find the Lord to betray him, Judas knew where to go: to Jesus' garden of prayer!
But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:15-16)
Jesus went out, as usual, to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation." He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed... (Luke 22:39-40).
If you are like me, you avoid "lonely places". They are not our usual habitat. I fill lonely places with music, reading, television, computer work, hunting, fishing, hiking, conversation, and people. None of those "lonely places" fillers are bad in themselves. They can be, however, distractions from our deepest need: to walk with God "in the cool of the day" (Genesis 3:4 ESV).
So today, I'm asking you to join me in a prayer. This is not a long prayer or an elaborate prayer or an eloquent prayer. It is a simple prayer asking for our hearts to yearn for the Father — to intentionally seek him in "lonely places" so that the "as usual" part of our lives are characterized by prayer!