As God is the environment of man, prayer should be like breathing within this environment (to borrow an image from Jay Adams). This will be the first in a series on prayer. I think it beneficial because everyone has a vague idea or picture of what prayer is. We imagine someone with folded hands and bowed head, or maybe in these more modern and charismatic days someone with raised hands and upward looking face. There are so many views on prayer and many of them fall short of what the Bible reveals prayer is, and what it sure is not.
In both the good and bad of life man must learn to pray to God. Ask most Christians and we will find prayer described as the hardest of all Christian disciplines. Without regular prayer God is something of a picture on the wall, someone you encounter only at church or to be heard from only when the Bible is cracked open. In some cases we treat God as if we will come to Him for advice when we want it, and that He is not to offer or interject it when it’s not. But God tells us He is the only source of life, hope, love, help and wisdom (among other things) from which we should ask and seek counsel from Him in all things every day. When we come to important decisions in life, do we really pray to God for wisdom, guidance and the boldness to do something about our problems? When in the good times of this life or the bad, are we thankful that He is who He is, trusting and acknowledging that He has our true and best interest in mind?
In reformed circles prayer is even systematically categorized an outward means whereby Christ communicates to us the benefits of his mediation (Westminster Larger Catechism Q# 154 and Shorter Catechism Q#88). This shows just how important prayer is in the daily life of Christians.
Let’s dig deeper into God being man’s environment. Think of living in your current physical environment holding your breath. First we cannot do it for very long, and second if we attempt to do it for too long, we will pass out. Not breathing is not a very successful way to live in this world. Also breathing is a natural and automatic function of our being. We are designed to function with the intake and exhale of air. The Christian’s communication with the Creator of the universe should be as natural as breathing. Prayer should come naturally, and if we are not doing it regularly we are bound to pass out and lapse again into our former death like estate.
If we are holding back on our communication with God it could be we are holding back on His influence in “our” lives, or possible we just have not really been taught to pray. Hopefully that is where some of my next posts can help shed some light on this matter of prayer.
Adams, Jay E. A Theology of Christian Counseling. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.