I’ve read quite a few books about prayer and how to pray. Some were good, some were not. But surely the best way to learn about prayer is by considering how, when and where Jesus prayed? That brings certain challenges. For instance, would I be up for an all-nighter up in the hills? Or forty days in the local wilderness fasting and praying? Hills and wilderness aside I cannot get away from the fact that Jesus prayed a lot, and frequently for more than a couple of minutes.
Years ago when I was serving at sea and definitely not walking with God my Aunt mobilised her friends to pray for me. I didn’t know it at the time. I don’t even know if they knew how and when their prayers were answered but I do believe that without their faithfulness in prayer my life may have turned out very differently. Or ended abruptly (and I can think of occasions when that should have happened).
Then there was the time back in 1991 that my wife was in isolation in hospital with meningitis, hooked up to drips unable to communicate and showing no signs of recovery. I really thought I was going to lose her. Then one day I came in at visiting time to find her sitting up in bed and able to converse with me. It was some time later that I discovered that Marilyn’s sudden recovery coincided with my father asking for prayer for Marilyn when he came on stage to speak at a Christian conference in Singapore. Before Dad spoke all those at the conference prayed. Thousands of miles away Marilyn opened her eyes. That was a cry for prayer in the storm, but we need to be praying through life not just in the storm.
That was my prompt this morning. I woke early and found myself challenged about who I am praying for and who is praying for me. And I realised how remiss I am at praying daily for those God has placed into my care and into my heart. I need to be praying for my family daily. I need to be praying for precious friends daily, and for my pastor and other leaders at my church. And I need to pray for others as God prompts me. I also need to remember that I need to take time in prayer to listen to God.
As for the right place to pray I know it is good to find a quiet place to be still before God but quiet places are often in short supply in the busyness of life. Although I appreciate time in the stillness when it is available, I have had long conversations with God while driving, while travelling by rail and air, when walking the dog, and even when taking an early morning swim on holiday. I have come to understand that there is virtually no time when it is not possible to pray. I am pretty sure that was an example that Jesus set too.
When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him! (Matthew 6:5-8 NLT)