Last week we enjoyed an all expense paid trip to Disney World. My wife’s mother fulfilled her husband’s dream of treating all 19 family members (12 under the age of 13!) to a week of fun rides, delicious food, and family memories. My most pointed memory was made soon after we arrived. As our three year old Kaylee and I stepped on to an escalator, she began thanking me profusely. “This is so exciting!” she gushed, in adoration of the escalator. She continued even after we got off. It dawned on me that she thought the escalator was a Disney ride. Anticipation for this trip ran rampant in the months prior to leaving, and little Kaylee had not reference point to understand what Disney was all about. As I cherished this memory throughout the week, I began thinking of prayer. How often do we settle for the escalator when there’s so much more out there?
There are three specific aspects of prayer I often find missing in Christian community. To begin with, authentic Christian prayer is by nature passionate. Epaphras “was always wrestling in prayer” (Colossians 4:12). How do we approach Almighty God without adoration and wonder? How do we intercede for the very souls of others without fervor? How can we who have been forgiven so deeply come so flippantly to the Throne of Grace? Why do we resort to the same tired prayers when eternity for us has already begun? As we retreat to be with our Heavenly Father, our souls become emboldened as we develop a clearer picture of the One we worship. So long as the TV, iPod, laptop, and other distractions are out of reach.
Authentic prayer is others focused. For whom did Epaphras wrestle in prayer? “for you”! There are surely seasons when we pour out our hearts to the Lord, a cherished privilege we enjoy: a God who daily bears our burdens. Yet as we pray we are most fulfilled when we are worshiping God, waiting on Him, and interceding for others. Not just for Aunt Helga’s broken toe, but as Epaphras prayed, “that you might stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.” When you pray for others, are you praying that they would stand firm in their faith, setting their hope fully on the grace to be given when Christ is revealed? In the battle that rages, we all need strength for the journey.
A final point is that prayer is offered in thanksgiving. Again, God delights in hearing our burdens – He has big shoulders. But if our prayers are characterized by griping and ingratitude, they more resemble the rotten apple we pull from the bottom of the basket. “I have not stopped giving thanks for you,” Paul told the Ephesians, “remembering you in my prayers.” Without trivializing the trials we face, let’s always keep focused on the goodness of God and the blood He shed so we could enjoy eternity with Him.
Rote prayers offered from habit are boring and uninspiring; may we discard them completely. Prayerless Christianity is an impoverished faith, Christ died to give us so much more. May we rise above religious mechanics and revel in the wondrous God we serve, in the position we’ve been given, and the hope we have laid up for us in heaven.
- Pastor Colin