What part does prayer play in the life of a person of faith, in our relationship with our Holy Father, and in the minute-to-minute of our daily family, working, eating, striving, travelling, busy lives?
Prayer is at the heart of our faith and faith is at the heart of our prayer — it is by faith that we believe in, have a relationship with, and pray to our unseen, untouchable, immeasurable Lord God Almighty, which is the antithesis of science in which belief is based on measurement and appraisal.
God’s Word tells us in Mark 11:22-24 — So Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” and Hebrews 11:6 “But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him”.
Andrew Murray, in his book With Christ in the School of Prayer, says: “The place and power of prayer in the Christian life is too little understood”.
“I feel sure that as long as we view prayer simply as the means of maintaining our own Christian lives, we will not fully understand what it is really supposed to be.
“But when we learn to regard it as the highest part of the work entrusted to us – the root and strength of all other work – we will see that there is nothing we need to study and practice more than the art of praying,” says Murray.
Günther Hess who is a member of European Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ECAL), and co-founder of the Apostolic Training Network, says prayer prepares us for receiving God’s grace, focuses us on God’s solutions, and prepares us to hear God’s voice and do His will.
He says prayer is conducted in the spirit, as flesh cannot have an encounter with God who is Spirit, which is confirmed by John 4:23-24 — “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father is seeking such to worship him. God is Spirit: and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”.
Hess explains that prayer is a most powerful tool to activate your own spirit who can meet God.
“We can’t pray without the Holy Spirit as prayer in itself is a gift of grace. However, pride (versus grace) is a powerful mindset, which can prevent one coming into God’s presence.
“Prayer makes us more humble, focuses us on God’s character and His solutions. With that we become more dependent on Him, which helps us to enter the sphere of receiving His gifts and His grace,” says Hess.
Indeed, God’s Word is clear on the importance of prayer. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you”.
Prayer without ceasing
Brother Lawrence, a monk who lived over 360 years ago working in the kitchen of a Carmelite monastery, saw prayer as the realisation of religion. He persistently practiced praying without ceasing to emulate Jesus Christ’s constant communication with our Holy Father and not acting at all without knowing His will.
However, is constant prayer and communication with the Lord practically achievable for us who do not live in the seclusion of a 17th Century monastery environment, but in the continuously connected age of the 21st Century in which we are virtually always switched-on to the Internet and social media, or constantly kept busy by work, family and trying to make ends meet?
Praying without ceasing was also a struggle for Brother Lawrence who said in his classic Christian work, Practice of the Presence of God: “I found no small pain in this exercise, and yet I continued it, notwithstanding all the difficulties that occurred, without troubling or disquieting myself when my mind had wandered involuntarily”.
“I made this my business, as much all the day long as at the appointed times of prayer; for at all times, every hour, every minute, even in the height of my business, I drove away from my mind everything that was capable of interrupting my thought of God.
Brother Lawrence said: “When we are faithful to keep ourselves in His holy Presence, and set Him always before us, this not only hinders our offending Him, and doing anything that may displease Him, at least wilfully, but …. by often repeating these acts, they become habitual, and the presence of God is rendered, as it were, natural to us.”
Brother Lawrence maintained that it is a great delusion to think that times of prayer ought to differ from other times.
He said his prayer was “nothing else but a sense of the presence of God” and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might.
“Thus,” said Brother Lawrence, “by rising after my falls, and by frequently renewed acts of faith and love, I am come to a state, wherein it would be as difficult for me not to think of God, as it was at first to accustom myself to it.”
“The time of business,” said Brother Lawrence, “does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were upon my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
Perhaps Brother Lawrence’s most valuable advice on constant prayer and communication with God is that “we need only to recognise God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment”.
While Andrew Murray concurs with Brother Lawrence about the value of continuous prayer throughout the day, he emphasises that just as Jesus Christ needed secluded quite time in payer and communion with His Father for renewal, rejuvenation and restoration, so do we.
Murray quotes from Mark 1:35, “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, He went out, and departed into a desert place, and there prayed” and Mark 6:31 — “And He saith unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile”.
“And why did my Saviour need these hours of prayer? Did He not know the blessedness of silently lifting up His soul to God in the midst of the most pressing business? Did not the Father dwell in Him? And did He not in the depth of His heart enjoy unbroken communion with Him?” queries Murray.
“Yes, that hidden life was indeed His portion. But that life, as subject to the law of humanity, had need of continual refreshing and renewing from the fountain. It was a life of dependence; just because it was strong and true, it could not bear the loss of direct and constant intercourse with the Father, with whom and in whom it had its being and its blessedness,” says Murray in answer to his own questions.
He points out that: “Even work in the service of God and of love is exhausting: we cannot bless others without power going out from us; this must be renewed from above”.
“The law of the manna, that what is heavenly cannot remain good long upon earth, but must day by day be renewed afresh from heaven, still holds good.
“Jesus Christ teaches it to us: I need every day time to have communion with my Father in secret. My life is like His a life hid in heaven, in God; it needs time day by day to be fed from heaven. It is from heaven alone that the power to lead a heavenly life on earth can come,” says Murray.
Leaving all work to pray
Hess says prayer as part of quiet time, specifically set aside and dedicated to worshipping God – separating ourselves from the world and communing with our Holy Father, is very important. In fact, he says even successful ministers could achieve much more if they would leave all their work for one week every month to pray.
There is something about beginning our day by making a sacrifice of your time that might otherwise be spent in bed sleeping, dedicated to prayer at the feet of our Holy Father while the rest of the household is quiet and asleep, which brings a stillness and calm to the rest of our day.
Secluded quite time in payer and communion with our Holy Father produces a consciousness of His Presence within us that we are able to carry around all through the rest of the day. Though we will, no doubt, forget His Presence often, if our day is built on a foundation of prayer as a practice of His Presence then we are more easily able to remember His Presence, which brings a Kingdom perspective and clarity to all our activities no matter how hectic and busy our circumstances may seem.