Sweet Minute of Prayer
"Sweet minute of prayer, sweet minute of prayer . . ." Lately, this often seems to be our version of that old hymn's refrain. How are we supposed to cram in an hour of prayer, let alone pray without ceasing, in the midst of jobs, chores, errands, cleaning, church, work, school?
Flip back through your mind's scrapbook to those days of church camp, Sunday school and vacation Bible school. Can you think of a single Bible hero who didn't pray? Me neither.Abraham? Check. Noah? Check. David? Check. Peter? Check. Paul? Check.
Jesus also prayed: for himself, for God's will, for strength and healing. He prayed blessings on His disciples and for followers yet to come. He instructed us to pray and modeled how to do it. No doubt about it, prayer is not just icing on the cake of our Christian walk.
So why are we stuck in the land of rote, shopping-list, quick prayers, stuffing them into the day in the name of efficiency? This attitude is common because we don't choose prayer as an urgent priority. Perhaps God's command to pray continually wasn't meant for people whose world includes fax machines, cell phones, e-mail and full-time workweeks. Ah, but it was meant for us and for our own good.
Prayer develops our relationship with God (Hebrews 4:16). We are permitted to approach the Creator of the universe (gulp!) to request big things, such as mercy, and small things, such as memory of where we left the car keys. Prayer is a means of inviting God into our lives. When we become accustomed to prayer, we find that we miss spending time with Him the way we would miss regular conversations with our dearest friends.
Prayer provides us with answers. Prayer influences God's actions; He welcomes our requests. After being told that he would soon die, Hezekiah prayed and God gave him another 15 years (Isaiah 38). After the Israelites worshiped the golden calf, God wanted to destroy them. But Moses interceded, and God did not wipe out His people (Exodus 32).
Prayer heals our pain. When our pain goes too deep for spoken words, God's Spirit intercedes for us (Romans 8:26).
When I lost my 56-year-old dad to cancer just 12 hours after the birth of my third daughter, I found it impossible to pray. But I felt the Spirit interceding on my behalf, and eventually the discipline of my own prayer life returned.
Prayer changes us. When we pray for those who mistreat us, our perspective changes. God shows us His compassion for them. Watch Him work in you and in others.
While I was walking a few weeks ago, talking out loud with God, two neighborhood girls stopped pedaling their bicycles and scooted close to me.
"Hey, lady, who are you talking to?"
"Well, I'm kind of saying some things out loud that I need to remember."
"Yeah? But who are you telling them to?"
"Actually, I'm praying. I'm talking with God about my husband and my little girls and the things I'm hoping for them and lots of other people, too."
One of them stared at me for a long moment. "You must be a loving person."
"Oh, I hope so. One of my [prayers] is for the people in this neighborhood, so I'll be praying for you later, OK?"
"Really? Cool! Hey, did ya hear? That lady's gonna pray for us!"
The whole conversation took less than a minute but it wouldn't have happened without my time in prayer.