God wants you to journey through life with him in prayer. God is not overly concerned about us praying the “right” way, with fine words and eloquent speech. The heart intention that motivates our prayer is of more consequence than how we pray. Jesus contrasted the prayer of a scholarly, upright Pharisee who said, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11) with that of a contrite tax collector who prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” (Luke 18:13) Jesus said it was the humble prayer, the simple prayer that was heard.
Our heavenly Father’s heart is revealed in the wonderful truth that God desires to dwell with us. We have a better understanding of prayer when we grasp this truth. Beginning at creation, God walked in the garden, communicating with Adam and Eve. At the end of Revelation we are told God will make his dwelling with us. During the intervening period Jesus came, died and rose to restore our relationship with God and then he promised the Holy Spirit would dwell in us. It is God’s intention to walk with us and talk with us along life’s narrow way, until the time he makes all things new and makes his dwelling among us. Jesus came to open the way for us to have a rich relationship with his heavenly father that is so much more than yes, no or wait. We are offered prayerful presence, time in the company of God, time to cultivate our awareness of God’s presence with us.
Prayer is a means of Grace, a gift given to us by God, so we may engage in a spiritual life in this physical world. Humanity tends to pray for things, while God desires to give us himself, his presence. Prayer is engaging in the truth of God’s kingdom come and God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven. In prayer we engage in spiritual life that both encompasses and transcends the reality of the world we live in.
Prayer is a journey towards Christ likeness. An ancient name for the Messiah was Immanuel which means God with us. Here again God’s intention for humanity is spelt out – God desires to be with us, and in the person of Jesus Christ God was with us. Jesus linked the idea of dwelling to prayer when he said, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) Jesus was a man of prayer. (Luke 2:49) (Mark 1:35) (John 16:23–24) Jesus constantly prayed and also taught about prayer. He taught us how to pray, to be persistent in prayer and to be expectant in prayer. Following Jesus on the path of prayer enables us to enter into the prayerful character of Christ. As we do so we are transformed from one degree of glory to another.
Prayer is also a journey into the fulness of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is God’s provision for us until the time when God himself will be present on the new earth. When Jesus was about to leave the disciples, he taught them about the Holy Spirit who would guide and empower the mission he had given to them (John 15:26). Jesus commanded his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit and when the Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost Peter proclaimed, And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.’” (Acts 2:38–39) This fulfilled the prophecy in Joel that God would pour out his Spirit upon his people. This is a promise we can rely on. It is clear and it is simple, God seals our salvation with the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit is God’s empowering presence for us and for the Church. And, as people of faith, we are dependent on the Holy Spirit for all aspects of our lives. The Holy Spirit is God with us. As we pray we enter more deeply into His presence with us.
As we gain a better understanding of this journey of prayer rather than simply bringing requests to God, we begin to appreciate the presence of God. Prayerful presence enriches our understanding of the Psalmist words, “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalm 42:1–2) It is in this prayerful presence that deep calls to deep and we begin to plumb the depths of prayer. This is prayer where we abide in God, as he abides in us. Here we find answers to questions we hadn’t thought to ask. Here prayer changes us. Here our souls are touched, transformed, healed, shaped by the very presence of God who is love and light.
- Consider the view of prayer offered by Martin Smith. How does this challenge, support or offer a view that differs from how people generally see prayer?
- How might prayer nourish us or allow us to be loved by God?
- Why do you think people struggle with prayer or even give up on prayer?
- Why is the concept of dwelling so prevalent in the bible? John 15:7 Eph 2.22, Rev 21.3-4.
- How is the concept of dwelling linked to the presence of the Holy Spirit? Acts 2:38–39
- Humanity often asks for “things” in prayer, while God offers us his presence – What difference do you think it would make to us if we spent less time asking and more time dwelling? Psalm 42:1–2
- What could we do to help shape our prayer life to foster our appreciation of the presence of God?
Rev John Malcolm