If a new Christian came to me and asked, “If you could tell me one thing that has changed your faith and experience with God more than any other thing, what would that be?” Without hesitancy I would say, “Prayer, the deep long lasting desperate prayers during the late of night.”
This last week I was watching a documentary on the the Orthodox Church at Mt. Athos. If you have never learned about this monastic hermitage I would encourage you to take the time to watch this video. It is a documentary about the Orthodox Monks who live on a peninsula of the Mediterranean in Northern Greece. The documentary spends time at this hermitage and primarily points out the intimacy with Christ that a life of righteous contemplation can bring.
The Christian denominations that encourage monastic living have many gifts to offer the sometimes flippant evangelicals (that includes me). Having grown up as strictly Lutheran and taught to avoid the veneration of saints (which I still believe). Unfortunately the wisdom that God communicated through many of saints are also overlooked. But the deeper my relationship goes with God. The more I have come to see the Saints of the past as my elder brothers and sisters whom I can find solidarity through a natural affinity.
The subtle misunderstanding that we make with the saints is we confuse their identities with the Love of God living through them. It can seem like an end in itself to venerate the Saints and pray for blessing yet bypass intimacy with God altogether.
Instead it is better to do the harder thing and actually do as the saints have done in life, that is to passionately venerate God himself in our prayers. It is a good thing to let the saints be an example and a constant reminder of our our opportunity to surrender our selfish natures to God. Though we are to be sober in the understanding that as humans are have all been lost in our sins. The saints confronted this sin by heeding the call of God. This call required them to spend time with him in prayer.
There is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace. We are all given equal access to God’s grace, it is a gift we choose to accept in greater or lesser measure.
In my estimation if there is one thing the Christian church can teach better is the richness that comes as a result of a life of prayer. Rather than a rich life as a result of our prayer. If we never receive the encouragement from our church leaders to develop a more consuming life of prayer, we are likely to never know what we are missing. When we do not recognize what we are missing we instead pray for things that we believe will fill our hearts.
Having grown up in a Christian church and household, it was not until my thirties that I began to recognize that the level of my intimacy with God was directly proportional to my commitment to spending time with him in prayer.
This is the purpose of this writing. To help you not miss the place where you can find the deepest relationship you have ever known. Through this Godly communion you will find your prayers naturally begin to move from passing needs to eternal truths.
One blessing of encountering insurmountable obstacles in life is that it can teach you to pray. Then once the obstacle has resided this habit becomes a part of you and you carry it with you into all other aspects of your life. In the process of searching for deliverance from our oppressions we actually find communion with God. Does it not make sense, that if everything in life goes our way and all our fleshly desires are satisfied, we are less likely to make time for God or even consider that we need him. Because of this, remember when we envy our neighbors things or wife that what you have in exchange is a deeper intimacy with God. Something that will never pass away.
So I’m going to share some things that I have learned about prayer over the years and encourage you to cherish the precious moments when you have given God your undivided attention.
When you pray, pray to meet God.
Who of us do not want to see God face to face? How many of our doubts would that take away? All of them?
Only to be like Thomas, “Lord show me the holes in your hands and let me touch them, then I can believe”.
Though this is certainly not something that we would expect from God. That is to appear before us physically. Let us still pray in a way in which we anticipate that he could, diligently waiting for his presence to be made manifest in our hearts and minds. To get to the place in our spirit where we sense his love, guidance, and wisdom. When we are found in his presence and grace all our worldly concerns and fears seem insignificant. Through commitment and endurance we begin to overcome our impatience.
2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”
Repent for your Sins and for the Sins of the World.
If there is one key to the door of God’s presence. I would consider reconciliation or repentance to be the most important position of the heart required to access God’s grace.
The thing about sin is that we are all subject to it, but we are not all subject to remaining in alignment with it if we choose to surrender it to God. The dissolution of pride is the prerequisite of repentance and the submission to God’s righteousness is what enables this dissolution. To be able to confess to God that despite what we desire or feel that he is just and any disobedience is evident of our own character defaults and not an indicator of God’s lack of truth, wisdom, or mercy.
As we become more familiar with God’s unending mercy towards more and more we are able to do the above. To be able to trust him beyond our preconceived notions.
As we see God’s mercy on our own state of being, it seems to become a natural progression that we begin to be drawn to pray for God to have mercy on others. There is significant grace found in praying for the good of others as it heals our own bitterness and deciet.
Ephesians 6: 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Prayer is not Pretty
It is my prayer for you that God will take you to a place of your rawness.
May your mascara run despite your identity.
Only here in this rawness where God in his mercy allows us to recognize our corruption, are we able to begin getting a glimpse of God’s majestic sovereignty. When we allow him to put us in our place, more and more we are able to respectfully place him in his. This in my mind is where corporal prayer can fall short. For few want to be the ones seen crying and vulnerable when the lights come up and this in my mind points out the importance of personal prayer. A place where you can truly let your guard down.
Prayer should bring you to sob, to tear of your clothes in shame, and to bare your soul before God raw and unfiltered. If you have never experienced this, it is grace that you do. It tears down all our personal monuments and alters down to their foundations. A place were we can finally submit to God in all his glory and will for us.
Luke 18: 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
The Saints took After Jesus
The Saints were normal people like you and me who prayed often. When God called them and asked them to follow him, they did. As they prayed God made them into vessels whom he could use. This is not a unique or personal grace that they dispense. It is nothing but God’s grace made manifest through them. A by product of their Love for God and submission to his calling on their lives. So may we also follow Christ’s example. May we pray spend time in prayer to God.
Luke 6:12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.