“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” (Lk 11:1)
How many of us have asked that same question in our own Christian walk? “Lord, teach me to pray.” We have Jesus’ teachings on prayer in the bible; we can be taught by our pastors, our Sunday School teachers, our small groups, our families; and yet prayer is something we never fully grasp. It is a lifelong journey of learning, wrestling, growing.
One of my earliest memories of prayer is from when I was just a little girl in church. I remember having this idea that if every single person in the church had their eyes closed during prayer time, then some sort of ghostly figure of Jesus would materialise in the room; but if anybody opened their eyes during the prayer to try and catch a glimpse, he would immediately disappear. I’m not entirely sure where I constructed this idea from – perhaps it was my childhood imagination attempting to assign reason to the pastor’s pre-prayer instruction of “close your eyes”. On the one hand, there is something beautiful about this vivid picture I had as a small child, this strong conviction of Jesus’ tangible presence and dwelling among us during prayer. After all, Jesus promises in Matthew 18:20 that when “two or three gather in my name, there am I with them”. But overall, the idea was deeply flawed; the notion that the effectiveness of our prayers was dependent on our external posture of closed eyes – that Jesus would literally disappear from the church if somebody was doing it “wrong”! Not quite the biblical picture of our Heavenly Father. (Thankfully, I grew out of this idea pretty quickly!)
At the other end of the spectrum, I remember a significant turning point in my prayer journey during my late teens. The church I was attending at the time had a sermon on “Angels and Demons”, exploring what the bible says about spiritual warfare. It was the first time I had ever grappled with this concept, and I found it quite confronting to consider the spiritual forces of evil in the world (Eph 6:12). But it ultimately led me to a deeper understanding of Jesus’ power and what it meant to truly pray with authority. The first time I was able to put that knowledge into practice in my prayer remains one of the most powerful and humbling experiences of my spiritual life.
Sometimes our experience of prayer is extraordinary. Sometimes it is frustrating, challenging, mysterious. It is a lifelong journey of learning, wrestling, growing. But what matters most is that we are engaging in a conversation with God. We are praying to our Heavenly Father who invites us into a relationship with Him; who wants to speak to us, and who wants us to pour out our hearts to Him.
As we look ahead to our ‘Week of Prayer’ (July 19-26), I invite you to reflect on your own personal journey with prayer. Let us make this a time of intentionally renewing and reviving our prayer before God as a church.