As I have written in earlier posts, my mother and grandmother and aunt trained me to pray at bedtime as a little girl, and my mother kept teaching me over a lifetime what a life of prayer was all about. She also modeled the priorities I possess: she made daily prayer a priority. She tells the story of being alone in her house with little children during my dad's medical training, and having a visitor stop by unexpectedly. She was sitting with her Bible and prayer journal on the sofa, with the morning mess still in it's place and the three of us playing quietly. She says the visitor looked at her like she was nuts! But that to me was a picture of my mother at her most sane and centered, and I am grateful for her!
So in the midst of the workers and displaced stuff that is my home right now, I have found it possible to continue that habit of sitting down with my God in the middle of the mess and chaos, and receiving from Him His love and peace and direction. As I wrote earlier today and earlier this week, I'm still far from being the person I want to be with other people -- but alone with Him I feel His forgiveness and acceptance and words of truth.
And out of the centering of my life and my agenda on Him -- so that I receive from Him His life and His agenda for the day -- I am turned toward others in prayer. Someone important said "the work of the church is prayer" and "prayer is the work of the church" . . . and that has to mean the work of individuals. We are called to pray for each other and for God's purposes in all our lives and in the world around us! And, for some strange reason, our Triune God not only acts in response to our prayers but apparently also often restrains Himself from action when there has been no request from His people for action. He calls us to intercessory prayer!
Yet we prioritize other things, don't we? We must make enough money to sustain a basic life (basic in our eyes, but not in the eyes of the rest of the world!), and we must be fit and attractive and well-groomed, and we must have kids who are not only good in school subjects but also excel at a variety of things like ballet, gymnastics, tae kwon do, baseball, soccer, violin, etc . . .
And we must have what I am today working at: a nicely-decorated, well-organized, immaculately cleaned home. Prayer just doesn't figure in there as something that should consume more than a few minutes, does it?
I know many in our church who love the Lord and do have prayer lives that occupy hours a week. I know many who love corporate prayer as well, and are part of the prayer meetings we hold. I also know many who appear to give lip-service to the idea, but that I strongly suspect prioritize other things that crowd out actual time in God's presence . . . and I know those who openly admit that struggle.
Most of the things worth doing in life have their own intrinsic reward -- eventually. Delayed gratification is necessary, but not endless self-denial. It feels good to be clean and well-groomed. It feels good to be strong and healthy and not too plump. It feels good to have a clean, pretty, organized environment in which to function. It feels good to be competent at a career and to make a good contribution to the production of a team. Prayer is no different.
When we spend time first sharing our own life and needs with our God, and then interceding on behalf of others, we receive clear answers to our prayers over time, and we also receive an increasingly intimate knowledge of God and relationship with Him, and we receive ourselves -- whole and free and focused on what really matters, finally!
Our world calls us to busyness incessantly. Today I felt overwhelmed with that call, as my home was invaded by outsiders moving us closer to the American Dream. Most of my life I have marched to that drum of trying to accomplish more and possess more . . . and more . . . and more.
He says "Stop." "Come to Me, you who have taken on heavy burdens . . . lay them down at my feet . . . and take up the burden I give you for others! My burden is light, and I will give you rest for your souls!"
A big part of giving up the wrong burden is to come to Him and take up the right burden! He calls us to prayer and to obedience in loving others . . . and much of loving others will be done through prayer. Just watch Him!
I have a friend who should get all this, but who keeps thanking me for my prayers! Anyone who lived a life of intercessory prayer for the church-in-the-world and for the world and for our own community of followers and for all the people significant in the life of the pray-er would never offer thanks to another for their prayers as though they came out of a desire to do something for the one I pray for! Anyone who walks deeply with God and intercedes for His purposes in the lives of those He loves would get it . . .
It's all about Jesus . . . driven by Him, done for Him, rewarded by Him.
And the rewards are amazing. You don't know what you're missing! This isn't giving up a nice body and good health because you don't feel like working out or eating right! This is giving up something else . . .
If you are not meeting Him each day and spending as much time with Him as He calls you to spend in His presence, you are missing life. This is real life.