Reflections on Prayer - January
Matthew 6:9-13 “Our Father who art in heaven…”
By Lisa Espinoza
These are the first four words Jesus spoke in response to His disciples’ request, “Lord, teach us to pray.” As we begin our journey through the Lord’s Prayer, we humbly ask, along with these Christ-followers so long ago, “Teach us to pray.”
Learning to pray is a lifelong adventure in relationship. As a teacher illuminates new concepts in reading, math and science to his or her students, so God illuminates the countless facets of Himself as we sit at His feet…eager students in the hands of the Master teacher.
During a spiritual retreat a few years ago, I asked a precious old Benedictine monk named Claude if he ever got bored doing the same thing day in and day out at the monastery. He looked at me, eyes asparkle, and chuckled, “My dear, how could one ever tire of God? You can never know all there is to know about Him.”
If we settle into the reality that we are always beginners in prayer, we will find that God meets us in every humble attempt to become pray-ers. May we live each moment in such open relationship with our ever-present Lord that we find ourselves living out Paul’s admonition quite naturally to “pray without ceasing.”
One way teachers help students learn is to give them practice exercises, homework if you will. As permanent students “with Christ in the school of prayer,” as Reverend Andrew Murray so aptly puts it, we can likewise learn and grow through the practice of spiritual exercises.
Growing in Prayer
We carry into our relationship with God, our heavenly Father, the experiences we’ve had with our earthly father. If your relationship with your father has been loving and positive, write a prayer of thanks for this glimpse into the father heart of God. If your relationship with your earthly father has been negative or non-existent, write a prayer asking God to remove any obstacles in your relationship with Him that have resulted from these negative experiences. Ask Him to reveal the truth about who He is so that you can trust His father heart.
The Lord’s desire for us is that we approach prayer as a natural element of a healthy relationship, not as a daily transaction we must accomplish in order to earn God’s love and favor. We are already loved by God, and because of Christ’s sacrifice for us, we already have God’s favor. We are free to “be” in relationship with God without the striving and guilt and fear of not measuring up. Just for this week, set aside your regular prayer list or routine and simply practice turning every thought into a conversation with God, even in the midst of your daily tasks. At the end of the week, write about your discoveries.
God speaks to us in so many ways—through His word, through people, through circumstances, through nature— just to name a few. This week practice listening. Begin each day asking God to open your eyes to the ways He communicates with you throughout the day. At the end of the day, answer these questions: “In what unexpected ways did God communicate with me today? How was my day different because I expected to hear from God?”
This week meditate on the heart of God as revealed in I John 4:9, 10: “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Write this scripture on a notecard and put it in a prominent place you see several times a day…ask the Holy Spirit to work its truth deep into your heart.