We all agree, when we use the word “discipline” there is immediately a negative vibe that we all get. No one wants to be disciplined…especially in response to a behavior that was slightly unacceptable. But what if we sought out disciplines to help order our behavior? this is what Spiritual discipline is all about. We are going to spend some time focusing on a few spiritual disciplines and we are going to kick off with a post from Sean on Prayer. At the end of this post, you will find ways to get plugged into a more active prayer life with Wesley. Let’s get started – Sarah
One of the hallmark spiritual disciplines that many of us practice is prayer. Maybe you pray before you eat or pray before you go to bed. Perhaps you pray when you want something or pray to keep something from happening. But have you ever thought about why we pray? What actually happens when we pray? Even more simple than that, what is prayer? Today I want to talk about all of these things and hopefully lead you in a more fulfilling prayer life.
What is prayer and why pray?
Put quite simply, prayer is our way of speaking directly to God. This may seem obvious for some of you but it is critical to understand that prayer is the way in which we have a direct connection with our creator. Oftentimes I believe we pray out of an obligation and forget that it is a gift from God for us to be able to speak with Him. We are able to see the importance of prayer through the many times we see Jesus do it. In Luke 5:16 it says that Jesus would often go away by himself to pray. Clearly prayer was a spiritual discipline that He held in high regards if He did it often. This means two things for us. Firstly it means that we should pray. If Jesus found prayer so valuable that means that we should too. Secondly, it means that prayer works! A fear that often runs through my mind is “does God actually hear my prayers”? Cleary the answer is a resounding yes!
A history of prayer
Even outside of the Bible, prayer has a rich history. Not only do we see countless examples of historic Christian prayers dating all the way back to the first century, but we have authors who dedicated entire works to the subject of prayer. Teresa of Avila dedicated her life’s writing to explaining her view of four degrees of prayer. It is really easy to think that prayer has no place in the modern world. Many of those outside the church will be quick to chastise those who offer their prayers in times of trauma. However, even modern theologians such as Karl Barth says that “we must realize that our defense lies exclusively in prayer”. What this shows is that prayer is neither new nor old and is one of the main staples of our faith from the very beginning.
How to pray
The quick answer is that there is no one way to pray. This is a good thing! Ultimately, our Lord wants us to communicate in any way we can. There are, however ways that people have attempted to talk with God in the past. One of the most well known ways is the Lord’s Prayer. This is the prayer that Jesus gave as a response when his disciples asked the question we are asking now. Because this prayer came straight from the Messiah, it tends to be one that we commonly hear. There is also individual prayer. Again, there is no “right” way to do this. Communication with God is the ultimate goal. In Matthew 6:6 it says “when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen”. So clearly scripture urges us to make individual prayer a priority. An interesting concept that has been introduced to me in the past is thinking of individual prayer as more of a conversation rather than talking at God. This is obviously very difficult because in most cases we do not hear God talk back to us. But I argue that there is an added spiritual component by listening to God when we pray by ourselves. Maybe He is reaching out to you and you’re just not listening! The last type of prayer I want to suggest is group prayer. This may initially seem uncomfortable to you. Prayer is something that we have made very individualistic. I know most people shy away from even praying at family events. However, praying together is a great way to unite as the church universal. Wesley is a perfect place to try praying as a group and strengthening the already strong bonds between yourselves.
No matter which form of prayer you want to try, here are a few good steps to get started. Firstly, find a time and place where you can be completely focused. Then it is important to get in the right mindset. To be successful, vulnerability is a must. God knows our hearts but what He really looks for is for us to be completely ourselves for Him. Enter into your prayer with the idea that you will hold nothing back from God. Whatever is on your heart or on your mind is exactly what God wants us to put before Him. Most prayers start with “Dear Lord” or “Dear God”. Personally I love to model the introduction to my prayers after the way that Jesus prayed on the cross in Mark. He cries out “abba” which can be translated as “daddy”. What I love so much about this is the clear intimacy between Jesus and God in this moment. Once you are in a place where you are comfortable, in the right mindset, and have addressed God, this is when the bulk of the prayer is done. I have already hinted at what this part of the prayer consists of. This is where you lift to God the things that are on your heart and mind. I want to make sure that you know that there is absolutely nothing that you cannot pray for. There have been times when I have felt silly for praying for certain things. However, I believe that if it is important to us then it is important to God. Obviously this does not mean that we get everything that we pray for but the first step to creating a deeper relationship with God is to be completely transparent. Once you have said what is on your heart and mind, it is customary to close out your prayer. Another small thing that I do when I pray is right before I finish I tell God how much I love Him. I started doing this because each and every day I feel God’s love for me so I want to make sure that I reciprocate that in any way that I can. Finally I wrap everything up with something like “In your holy name I pray” or “I pray this in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. Lastly, you will hear just about every prayer finished by saying Amen. Amen is not just a bow to wrap everything up with. It is a Hebrew word meaning “it is so” or “let it be done”. So by saying Amen we are making one last petition to God to answer our prayers. My challenge to you is this; pray, pray, and keep praying. Try praying in ways that you haven’t yet. Though we are all separated right now, pray with people in your house or even pray over FaceTime with friends. As those of you who did The Chase have found out, prayer is extremely powerful. In this time of isolation focus on your prayer life and allow it to grow stronger and stronger. -Sean
Echo Prayer app
Echo is a prayer app that we are just starting to use. We will be adding prayers for all of us to be praying together. As well, you can add your prayer requests, pray for each other, encourage each other and even set time to pray for others! Follow this link to the Wesley Prayer Feed…and download the app.
Take it a step further. Want someone to pray with or for you? On Thursday from 6-6:30pm central time you can log in with some members of our team for a time for you to get prayed over. Just hop onto the call using this link