Many people mistake prayer for a spiritual technique that helps us to get what we want, and to receive goodies from God. But we would be short-changing ourselves. If we think about prayer in this way, we would be guilty of loving the gifts more than the Giver himself. And that is not what prayer is about.
Prayer is a relationship with God. True prayer is about approaching God simply because we love Him, with no specific request other than to spend some unhurried time with Him. God knows our hearts and the motivation behind our prayers. What joy it would bring to His heart, if He heard us say something like that!
When we learn to pray with such an attitude, we will have truly responded to Christ’s invitation to go to Him; we will have truly arrived at the feet of the only One who can give us true rest. Nineteenth-century Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once pointed out that the words “Come to me” should be understood to mean, “Remain with me, I am that rest.” And so it is with prayer.
When we go to Jesus in prayer, we go to the One who is our rest. If we leave Him, we would become restless again. Knowing this truth will produce the desire to abide with Him and pray, just so we can remain by His side.
Prayer must thus be practised regularly and faithfully, with a passion and discipline that demonstrates our sincerity in responding to Jesus’ invitation. It means setting aside regular time—preferably the first thing in the morning—to talk to Jesus. We may find ourselves distracted by thoughts of the day’s duties and responsibilities, but like Peter, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the one who calms our souls.
Christian writer C. S. Lewis gives some wonderful advice about starting each day in prayer: “The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.”
How true! We must go to Jesus first before we go anywhere else; otherwise, the day will either remain static and meaningless or unravel into spiritual chaos.
Novelist and poet George MacDonald wrote, “How often we look upon God as our last and feeblest resource! We go to Him because we have nowhere else to go. And then we learn that the storms of life have driven us, not upon the rocks, but into the desired haven.” Wise is the one who hears and responds to the invitation of Christ by going to Him first every day, through prayer and reading of His Word.
Christians who ignore the importance of prayer are in serious danger. To do anything or go anywhere—even in Christian service—without first going to Jesus is a recipe for personal and corporate disaster. Missionary efforts may end up as journeys of personal ambition or even entrepreneurship.
While the Lord does command us to make disciples for Him, we often forget His invitation to “Come to Me”; this invitation precedes the missionary command in our lives. If we do not go to Jesus first, we will lose the life-giving stream that enters our hearts, and all other journeys will become useless.
Heed the good advice of 11th-century theologian St. Anselm, who said: “Flee for a while from your tasks, hide yourself for a little space from the turmoil of your thoughts. Come, cast aside your burdensome cares, and put aside your laborious pursuits. For a little while give your time to God, and rest in him for a little while. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind, shut out all things save God and whatever may aid you in seeking God; and having barred the door of your chamber, seek him.”
Assess the direction that your life is taking, and reflect on the key aspects—your walk with God, your family life, your involvement in the Christian community, your witness in society, and your thoughts, emotions, and relationships. What do they say about where your life is going? Where might you need to make changes?
Excerpted and adapted from Finding Rest For The Soul by Robert Solomon. © 2016 by Robert Solomon. Used by permission of Discovery House. All rights reserved.
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