What Does Prayer Mean to You & Do You Pray?
Prayer is commonly thought of as a type of devotion, where one is engaged in communication with God. There are various kinds of expression, such as that of adoration, or a confession, the offering of thanksgiving, or a kind of supplication, petition or request. We can use standardized words, formalized prayers, or speak freely from the heart, as in a dialogue between two in intimate relationship.
In the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the New Testament, much is written about prayer. Conditions for its efficacy and the disposition of the one offering prayer are addressed. There are issues related to the relationship between repentance and belief; sin and one's faith.
In the Gospel of Luke (chapter 11) there is the story of a man who goes to the home of his friend late at night to ask for bread. The friend is settled in and doesn't want to be disturbed. He refuses, saying he doesn't want to get up out of bed. Yet, what he won't do for friendship he ends up doing because of his intruding visitor's persistence.
It is written, "I tell you, although he will not get up and supply him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his shameless persistence and insistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking, and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking, and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you..." (vs. 8-9, Amplified Bible, italics mine).
The message of importunity and persistence is clear. It is written in the present imperative. We are to keep on asking, seeking, knocking. Andy Andrews refers to the importance of "persisting without exception." Wallace D. Wattles says that we are to hold what we want in our thoughts as a clear picture, with the fixed purpose to get what we want, and the unwavering faith that we will get what we want... by "closing our minds to all that may tend to shake our purpose, dim our vision, or quench our faith."
Napoleon Hill puts it this way, "No one is ready for a thing until he or she believes they can acquire it. The state of mind must be belief, not mere hope or wish. Open-mindedness is essential for belief. Closed minds do not inspire faith, courage or belief."
Persistence, an inner fire, and belief are key to acquiring our heart's desire. Whether that be answered prayer, inconveniently acquired loaves of bread to provide hospitality, or to achieve success in an endeavor.
Sometimes we make very specific requests for others and for ourselves for healing, for strength or insight, for protection and provision; at other times we pour out our heart expressing our overwhelming gratitude for all we already have. In terms of gratefulness, Rabbi Heschel has written, "To pray is to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living..."
However we pray, it seems imperative that we do it with importunity, an open heart and a clear conscience. Psalm 145:18 says, "The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth." In I Thessalonians 5 we are lovingly admonished to rejoice always, pray constantly and give thanks in all circumstances. When we actually do this, everything changes.
Do you pray? If so, how? What does it feel like to think we are supposed to be shamelessly persistent and insistent in our prayers? What is it like to think of our prayers as an actual offering to God, like the burning of incense in a holy place? Or the lifting of our hands as a kind of sacrifice? What experiences of prayer have you had that have made a difference in your life?
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