Prayer Changes Us

Readings for this week May 21 – 25
Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

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Day 1 – Abba, Father

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Luke 3:21-22

Abba and imma – daddy and mummy – are the first words Jewish children learn to speak. And abba is so personal , so familiar a term that no one ever dared to use it in address to the great God of the universe – no one until Jesus. Professor Joachim Jeremias declares, “There is not a single example of the use of abba … as an address to God in the whole of Jewish literature.”

It is Jesus’ utter intimacy with Father God that startles us. Even as a twelve-year-old in the temple at Jerusalem, Jesus explains to his earthly parents, “I must be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49). […]Again, at the Mount of Transfiguration, the voice coming out of the cloud declares, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7). Jesus experienced the intimacy of Father God not only in the ecstasy of transfiguration but also in the agony of Gethsemane:  “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet not what I want, but what you want” (Mark 14:36).

These, of course, are only glimpses. This reality of deepest intimacy permeated everything Jesus said and did. As John Dalrymple observes, “The whole of Jesus’ life was a prolonged ‘abba experience’”.

Ontologically, Jesus’ relationship with God the Father is, of course, unique, but experientially we are invited into the same intimacy with Father God that he knew while here in the flesh. We are encouraged to crawl into the Father’s lap and receive his love and comfort and healing and strength. We can laugh and we can weep, freely and openly. We can be hugged and find comfort in his arms. And we can worship deep within our spirit.

Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, pp.141-2.

Question to Consider
How have you experienced God as ‘Abba’?

Prayer
Abba Father, thank you for your intimate fatherly love for me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – A Prayer Life

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We must never wait until we feel like praying before we pray for others. Prayer is like any other work; we may not feel like working, but once we have been at it for a bit, we begin to feel like working. We may not feel like practicing the piano, but once we play for a while, we feel like doing it. In the same way, our prayer muscles need to be limbered up a bit and once the blood-flow of intercession begins, we will find that we feel like praying.

We need not worry that this work will take up too much of our time, for ‘it takes no time, but it occupies all our time.’ It is not prayer in addition to work but prayer simultaneous with work. We precede, enfold, and follow all our work with prayer. Prayer and action become wedded. Thomas Kelly witnesses: ‘There is a way of ordering our mental life on more than one level at once. On one level we may be thinking, discussing, seeing, calculating, meeting all the demands of external affairs. But deep within, behind the scenes, at a profounder level, we may also be in prayer and adoration, song and worship, and a gentle receptiveness to divine breathings.’

We have so much to learn, so far to go. Certainly the yearning of our hearts is summed up by Archbishop Tait when he says, ‘I want a life of greater, deeper, truer prayer.’

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, pp.55-56.

Questions to Consider
How do you ‘warm up’ in prayer? How do you maintain prayer rhythms during times of work?

Prayer
Lord God, may my walking, talking, working life be enfolded in constant prayer – communication with you – as a life lived in your presence. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – “In the Flow of God’s Action”

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Acts 8:9-24

Under the apostles, the invisible kingdom of the heavens was in powerful manifestation in Samaria, a place where Jesus himself had, sometime earlier, been well received. Simon ‘the great’ was a local magician who observed the visible effects of the words and deeds of the apostles. He thought this was in his own line of work as a magician, and that he could buy ‘the secret’ from the apostles and use it in his business.

He did not understand that what he saw in the visible world in response to the apostles was a matter of who they were at the heart level before God and was a result of spiritual connectedness. A similar mistake is made by a group of Jewish exorcists in Acts 19:11-17.

Kingdom praying and its efficacy is entirely a matter of the innermost heart’s being totally open and honest before God. It is a matter of what we are saying with our whole being, moving with absolute intent and clarity of mind into the flow of God’s action. In apprenticeship to Jesus, this is one of the most important things we learn how to do. He teaches us how to be in prayer what we are in life and how to be in life what we are in prayer.

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, p.215.

Questions to Consider
How is your life moving in the ‘flow of God’s action’? How are the words and deeds of the kingdom manifesting in your life?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, your power cannot be bought and your will cannot be counterfeited. Thank you for the truth and beauty of your kingdom; may it be seen clearly in me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Reigning with God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 6:9-10

Prayer as kingdom praying is an arrangement explicitly instituted by God in order that we as individuals may count for much, as we learn step by step how to govern, to reign with him in his kingdom. To enter and to learn this reign is what gives the individual life its intended significance. This high calling also explains why prayer frequently requires much effort, continuous effort, and on same matters possibly years and years of effort. Prayer is, above all, a means of forming character. It combines freedom and power with service and love. What God gets out of our lives – and, indeed, what we get out of our lives – is simply the person we become.  It is God’s intention that we should grow into the kind of person he could empower to do what we want to do. Then we are ready to ‘reign for ever and ever’ (Rev. 22:5).

Reign is no doubt wording that is a little too grand for the contemporary mind, though what it refers to is what everyone actually pursues in life. We have been trained to think of ‘reigning’ as exclusive of others. But in the heart of the divine conspiracy, it just means to be free and powerful in the creation and governance of what is good. In the life of prayer we are training for, we reign in harmonious union with the infinite power of God.

And a major element in this training is experience in waiting for God to move, not leaping ahead and taking things into our own hands. Out of this waiting experience there comes a form of character that is priceless before God, a character that can be empowered to do as one chooses. This explains why James says that patience in trials will make us ‘fully functional’ (teleion), ‘perfect’ (1:4).

Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God, p.275.

Questions to Consider
What does it mean to reign with God? How does God reign through you?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, in all I say and do, may you reign in me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – An Ongoing Conversation

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – 1 Corinthians 13:9-12

I pray in astonished belief that God desires an ongoing relationship. I pray in trust that the act of prayer is God’s designated way of closing the vast gulf between infinity and me. I pray in order to put myself in the stream of God’s healing work on earth. I pray as I breathe – because I can’t help it. Prayer is hardly a perfect form of communication, for I, an imperfect, material being who lives on an imperfect, material planet am reaching out for a perfect, spiritual Being. Some prayers go unanswered, a sense of God’s presence ebbs and flows, and often I sense more mystery than resolution. Nevertheless I keep at it, believing with Paul that, “Now I know in part; then shall I know fully, even as I am fully known.”

[…]Prayer itself will necessarily change – not end, exactly, but realise its rightful place as conversation. Prayer now is a kind of awkward rehearsal, like talking on a mobile phone to someone in Africa, the connection garbled and staticky, the English broken and accented. God “has never acquiesced in the break which was brought about in Adam,” wrote Jacques Ellul. Indeed God has not. The entire Bible chronicles God’s effort to renew what was lost on that day in the garden when Adam hid, and no longer conversed with God as a friend. One day we will have that chance.

Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does it Make Any Difference?, p.318.

Questions to Consider
How has your prayer life changed over time? How do you see it changing in the future? How do you think it needs to change?

Prayer
Sovereign Lord, stay with me, talk to me, walk with me, and comfort me in the way that only a deep, intimate friendship with you can. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)