Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Spiritual Experience of Prayer

               Let me start off by saying that I am neither a charismatic nor a mystic (in the way it is often portrayed). I’m a Baptist and a Calvinist. I think I’ve said enough… I have, however, been given the same Helper that Christ gave the apostles at Pentecost. That cannot mean that nothing has changed since my conversion. There is a Spirit inside of me that groans for redemption, like there is in any genuine Christian.

                I suppose to explain what I mean, I should just explain why I am bringing up the subject. If we are honest, most Christians struggle with the almost illogical idea of prayer. Question like “why do I have to tell God if He already knows what I am thinking” and “why does it matter if I pray if God is sovereign” are normal and understandable questions. In fact, Jesus acknowledged both of these things. He says, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mat. 6:7-8). He also tells us to pray for God’s will, which he knows is inevitable. Take, for example, The Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mat. 6:10). Or remember that Jesus asked for deliverance from the cross, but prayed that God’s will, not His, be done.

                Then why do we pray? There are a lot of reasons. I will mention one that I have been learning from personal experience. I often face the dilemma of knowing that I should pray, but feeling like I don’t want to. I liken it to the experience of trying to get started on writing a research paper. Then, when I do pray, I leave wondering how I have ever gone without it. There is an emotional and existential connection that is built between God and His children and I experience it when I pray. The Spirit inside of me longs to commune with my Father and, when I do, I know where I belong.

                Paul talks about this connection through the Spirit often. In Ephesians 3:16, he speaks of God granting us “to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” In Romans, Paul addresses the exact issue of not knowing what to pray. He says that the Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” I am thankful that the Spirit intercedes for me in my weakness. This means that we do not need to be in the right frame of mind before we approach God in prayer. He helps us get there through prayer.

                I learned a helpful tip recently from Amanda: write out your prayers. I have been doing this the past two mornings and it has helped me in making my prayers raw and tangible. It keeps my distracted mind from wandering every 15 seconds. If you struggle with being distracted, like I do, maybe this will help you out.

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