Everyone knows that we live in an instant society, and though patience is extolled as a virtue, few cultivate it. We want everything bigger, better, faster, and stronger, and we want it yesterday. We try to pick the fastest line in the grocery store, often finding ourselves frustrated. We speed down the highway.
Growth can take place while we are unaware, but most growth results from directed effort. Growth in the life of prayer occurs by intention.
In Matthew 21 Jesus enters Jerusalem during the week of Passover. He is well received. A very large crowd gathers and they spread cloaks and palm fronds on the road ahead of him. People ask, “Who is this?” The answer is given: “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (Matthew 21:10-11).
The French monk Brother Lawrence wrote, “The first way in which the soul is united with God is through salvation, solely by His grace.” In Romans 5:6-8, Paul writes, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Praying the Hours The custom of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day or night goes back to the Jewish tradition. In the Psalms, we find expressions like, “Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice” or "Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws.”
It is not always easy to pray. Pray anyway. In life, we will pass through seasons of darkness. Times will be tough. We will suffer. Death will come. Tragedy will hit. In Psalm 23:4, the psalmist describes his passage through “the darkest valley,” elsewhere translated as “the valley of the shadow of death.”
One of the most challenging exhortations found in the Bible was written by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “pray continually.” Other translations render this verse “pray without ceasing.” How is this possible?
I keep a calendar. Four times a day, at morning, midday, evening, and before bed, my calendar reminds me to pray.
In 2 Chronicles 5-7, Solomon, King of Israel, calls the nation together to celebrate the dedication of the temple. Our reading today is but one portion of Solomon’s prayer of dedication. Before praying, Solomon “stood on the platform and then knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven” (1 Chronicles 6:13b). Solomon prayed a public prayer on what was both a solemn and joyous occasion.
Prayer is not something done for show. It is not a performance. When you pray, you are addressing an audience of one. You are speaking with God.
Breath prayers are a way to become more aware of God's presence and provide stillness for your soul. The Holy Spirit is as near and accessible as the air we breathe.
We are called to pray on behalf of the world. Paul urges Timothy, a young pastor, to lead his congregation in offering “petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving...for all people.” Paul then specifies rulers and authorities as a focus for prayer, knowing a well-governed nation experiences peace, which not only benefits the citizenry in general but the Christian community specifically.
In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes a strong case for intercession within the body of Christ. Intercessory prayer is the act of intervening on behalf of others before God. It is asking God to act on behalf of brothers and sisters in the family of faith.
The human spirit longs for satisfaction, contentedness, and peace. So we plan, aspire, and strive. The longings we have drive us to achieve and succeed. But longings are complicated. Proverbs 16:2 says, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Some of our motives are good, but some are evil. We need help in sorting out the difference.
Perhaps you’ve seen a person on a street corner with a sign saying, “Repent!” While the effectiveness of such methods can be questioned, the message itself is scriptural. The Bible contains four words translated “repent.” In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words shub and nahum carry different connotations, with shub suggesting a physical turning or returning to the Lord and nahum referring to an emotional response that motivates an inward change. In the New Testament, the Greek words metamelomai and metanoeo are used,