I met with my mentor last year to discuss a grievous spiritual matter. Sitting on the couch where she has often gently counseled me, I shared with her a struggle I was having to break free of paralyzing doubts to enjoy prayer (not just petitions but really enjoying the Lord) as I once did.
It was all so random. Doubt just sashayed into my soul, took the podium front and center, and began to conduct an elaborate sabotage of my prayer life. From there, I continued to describe how I was suddenly restless to know the "context" through which I would serve God. For everyone around me seemed to be in their position and focused. They seemed clear on their calling in life. But me, I've felt and looked so random, unstable, unfocused, and nomad-like. I feel I’m a jack of all trades but a master of none. My interests are so vast and I believe I can learn anything if I have an encouraging and patient teacher.
Well, in her calm and consoling way, my mentor looked at me and said something profound and epiphany-like, "prayer is your ministry." In other words, prayer is a ministry task always available. It is my first ministry unto God. Aha! Then I thought of Anna, the widow, from the book of Luke. I thought how it is recorded that she ministered day and night, with delight and contentment, in the Temple to the Lord through prayers, fasting, and praise. The thought warmed and endeared me.
So, why give all that personal detail? Well, I hope to stir us up to pray. For I am convinced that prayer is every believer's ministry. Any believer experiencing God, (i.e. seeing and feeling Scripture become palatable, or God's movements in circumstances, or experiencing unusual blessings to the soul or the physical) is NOT experiencing something esoteric and unavailable to any other believer.
Prayer is a gate open to all believers willing to enter it, stay the course to triumph over its challenges, and mine the depths of its treasures. The believer is as Esther and Christ is our King--the golden scepter is forever extended toward us in favor. Why wouldn't we take FULL advantage of this benefit in our inheritance package? Do we understand what it is to have the favor of the King?
There is a saying, if you want to hide something valuable from a person (especially in the 21 century)--put it in a book. For, we seldom take time to read. I think this idea is transferable to some of us in the Christian community. If you want to hide something valuable from believers tell them to persevere in prayer to gain it.
If some of us were brutally honest and courageous enough to reveal our thought-life, prayer is really quite ridiculous to us. We've seen it (we think) make a fool of too many people--believing something abstract and unlikely, by faith, that God "supposedly" spoke or lead, not to mention the damage the charismatic movement has done. There are all kinds of self-serving scams and personal deceptions going on in Christendom as it relates to prayer. So we play it safe. We clutch our prized reputations and vow to never be so risky or look so stupid or God forbid emotionally out of control. And consequently, our prayers remain powerless, perfunctory, and stoic—but, of course, doctrinally correct.
But prayer is indeed so much more than unverifiable abstractions and asking for earthly things we desire and need.
Rewarding prayer is when one comes to mount themselves upon an Altar (Romans 12:1-2) to be broken so as to bond with Christ. That is connect in such a way that we find ourselves praying in concert with the intercessions He is making at the right hand of the Father. That is connect in such a way that we pray in concert with the groaning(s) of the Spirit. That is allowing the Spirit to transfer His affections for the subject of our prayers to us--to the point He weeps or wages war through us. In this connection, we begin to pray His will into the earth for ourselves, the saints, even the world. Absolutely, exhilarating—intoxicating.
Prayer is also an occasion for uninhibited self-examination that produces a fresh brokenness over sin which leads to a spirit of thankfulness, surrender, forgiveness, and renewed joy and peace. It provides a fresh purity of heart and motive that was not present before you prayed. You know, it doesn’t always take some catastrophic event to humble or break us. No one has to know. The scripture says God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud. There is a reason God tells us to humble ourselves as we don’t want Him to do it for us. Prayer alone can humble us.
This is the best part of our salvation!
I encourage us to consider that prayer is a believer's first ministry. It is the launch pad to all other ministry in which we would engage. And one should be terrified to embark upon any place of official ministry in a Church without prayer being a pillar of their lives. If one struggles in prayer, praying with others is a great way to jump start affections that lead to prayer. Let us not quench His Spirit with our fear, pride, and unbelief. Let us go take advantage of this means of Grace. So what are your thoughts on prayer? What are your current obstacles? What step will you take today to triumph over the obstacle(s)?
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