being born again, encouragement, experience, God's guidance, God's love, God's voice, inspiration, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther, Michael Clark, prayer, rest, Søren Kierkegaard, Teresa of Ávila, The Lord's Prayer
This is another entry Michael Clark and I wrote together which springs from our own experiences with prayer and its effects on our soul and spirit.
It has been for three days now that I, Susanne, wanted to write a blog post about prayer. But since I had neither time nor inspiration to do so, I only gathered a few quotes on prayer yesterday in the late evening. Afterwards I shared these quotes with Michael and we prayed about writing together about how our times alone with God affect us. We realized that be both usually wake up in the flesh and urgently need to pray in order to feel God’s presence in our life again. Michael made an observation I really liked. He said, “I need to pray first thing or my day is trashed.” Yes, indeed! Here are the quotes that sprang somehow out on me. 😉
To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing. – Martin Luther
Prayer is […] a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart…Prayer is the key of the morning and the bolt of the evening. – Mahatma Gandhi
Prayer is an act of love; words are not needed. Even if sickness distracts from thoughts, all that is needed is the will to love. – Teresa of Ávila
The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. – Søren Kierkegaard
Real prayer is an act of love. We spend time with those whom we love. Whether we are happy to be with them or we are hurting and calling out to them for help, it is still an act that comes from the bond of love! But when we were Catholics, they tried to get us to pray “canned prayers,” memorized and sanitized words that would not offend God. I, Michael, even had to memorize prayers in Latin that I had no clue what they meant! Prayers that come from the mind or heart of another are not from our hearts and as a result Jesus called them vain (empty) repetition.
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Mt 6:6-8 ESV)
You know what comes next? The following verses introduce The Lord’s Prayer. Do we really believe that Jesus taught His disciples first to not heap up empty phrases and then commanded them to repeat The Lord’s Prayer again… and again…. and again? In churches it has become a ritual of sorts, together with many other prayers which, spoken for the very first time were surely ALIVE, that is, they initially had God’s breathe in them. But repetition without feeling nudged by God to pray that way is only dead religion. To put it bluntly, it is like reading a phone book in order to get the proper connection without ever using a phone. We might be able to memorize all the numbers and names, but will we ever hear a voice without calling anyone? Of course, it might happen that God uses a pre-formulated prayer, psalm, or hymn and makes them alive to us (even if it is only a word!). However, that does no mean He keeps making the same things alive on every occasion (every Sunday, for example). God is not a God of rituals unless the ritual consists of drawing close to God through prayer as often as possible. 😉
Actually, in a certain sense we as human beings long for rituals in order to feel secure. Whether it is the cup of coffee in the morning, the daily walk with the dog or a phone call with someone whom we love, or if it is a ritual we do not want to share with anyone but with God alone, rituals somehow offer a room of protection for our souls. But on the other hand, here lies a danger as well. As Michael pointed out above, if we give into the temptation to always flee into rituals regarding prayer, we can be sure we won’t meet the Eternal God there. We might meet our “old” habitual feelings there and we might confuse them with God’s real presence, but these feelings are simply something our soul was able to “reproduce”. In fact, that is not God’s doing because God’s ways are always surprising for us. His leading can never be predicted since it is like the wind that “blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8 ESV)
To me, Susanne, that fact has not always been something I was able to rejoice about since I do not like surprises that much. 😛 But being a Spirit-led and newly born believer changes the heart completely and you cannot delight in rattling out repetitive prayer rituals any longer. Although I pray in the morning, in the evening and in between as far as possible, I never know beforehand what will happen during my prayer times. Will I meet God and/or Jesus? I never know before who will talk with me. One of them? Or both? And what will they say? Or will I enjoy God’s rest and loving embrace without words? Or will the Holy Spirit’s bright light dig out another poorly healed wound in my heart, let me feel the pain once again, and finally heal me after another valley of tears and fears? I do not know. But I do know that God is here. He is here with me and He is there with you. God is closer to us than anyone else on earth. And He loves us more than we can imagine right now, far more than any human being ever could.
Let’s pray, brothers and sisters. He is worth it all and His love makes all the difference in our life. Or in other words (Paul’s),
“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in earnest prayer to God… “(Rom 15:30, nrs)