1 Thessalonians 5:17
This Christmas I received a gift I had never encountered before, as I unwrapped my presents I came across 'anti aging moisturising cream'. I laughed told my wife 'no chance I'm using that' and then proceeded with the rest of Christmas. The cream itself was thrown to the back of the ever increasing pile of cosmetics that married men seem to accumulate.
Two weeks ago we were off to a youth leader's conference, and with me, 30 is a distant memory, and the other digits which shall remain nameless are fast approaching. The thought of seeing many other younger, fitter, trendier youth workers over the weekend made me a little nervous. I took a good look at myself in the mirror the evening before we went, and suddenly, the anti-aging cream caught my eye for the first time in 8 weeks.
Five minutes and one application later, I'm looking in the mirror checking how much younger I look. Disappointed in the results I shrug shoulders and realise nothing can be done about the increasing years with this little time. Perhaps if I had started using the product straight after Christmas I might have seen some results, but obviously one application minutes before isn't going to do the trick.
As well as laughing about my own stupidity and vanity, this life lesson lead me to think of prayer, how often our prayer life is like this. How often is our prayer life compressed into five minutes before an event, when we want something, or when something's gone wrong? We look for quick fixes whenever suits us, but what are we actually remembering about the discipline of prayer?
The Bible tells us to 'pray at all times' and 'to pray without ceasing'. In our natural selves we can sometimes try to treat God the Father like a quick fix to our problems, jumping into his presence when we need something, and forgetting about him the rest of the time. What is really amazing is the Father is loving, gracious and good, and often responds to last minute desperation prayers, but I am convinced that this is not what God desires in our relationship with him.
Prayer is so much more than asking God for things. It involves aspects such as worship, meditation, confession, petition and sometimes just enjoying the presence of the Father. It is the reality of our relationship with the Father, so much of how we experience him comes through prayer.
In truth many of our answered prayers come through the Father working changes in us in these times, it is only as we start to spend time with him that we actually understand and come to grips with the 'height and depth and breadth of the Love of God.' In our age, we live in an instant gratification society, where things are supposed to be instant and complete. Unfortunately many things, or anything that is worth something, doesn't work that way!
I would encourage you to start to develop a discipline of prayer. Pray regularly, come to prayer for the sake of prayer, and look deeper than a five minute quick fix.
Ways to develop a more developed prayer life;
- Fix a time to pray, better to pray regularly for short amounts of time than try to do a marathon session.
- Choose a time without distractions
- Find a place to pray
- Choose a place that stimulates you to prayer
- Find someone to pray with at times, but let your prayer life expand beyond that
- Look at using various methods and styles of prayer
Finally be willing to understand that our life has seasons to it, there will be times when you pray lots without much visual outcome, there will times when you find prayer answered without much effort, there will be time when prayer is fun and easy, there will be times when prayer is difficult and hard. But in the long run without an investment in the discipline of prayer your Christian life cannot be what God intends it to be.
Lets go beyond the quick fix and start to develop the discipline of prayer.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
Part of the Leadership Team
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