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The first Thursday in May is the annual observance of The National Day of Prayer. This year, it falls on May 3. “It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.”
While it’s great that there is a National Day of Prayer, as believers we should be in prayer with our heavenly Father on a consistent basis. When Jesus taught his disciples how to communicate with the Father, he gave no special formulas or fancy words.
On the contrary, Jesus taught his disciples to speak from their hearts.
Here are three things we should consider about prayer:
- Prayer is communicating with your heavenly Father.
Prayer is simply talking to God. Sometimes in public while others are listening; sometimes a private conversation in our hearts; prayer is a dialogue with our Father. In prayer, I share my heart with God as I would my dearest friend.
One of the best descriptions of prayer I have ever run across comes from a 17th century Roman Catholic Frenchman named François Fénelon. Take time to thoughtfully read his clear explanation.
Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pain, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and to others.
If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, need, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subjects of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back; neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved conversation with God.
- Prayer is both a discipline and a way of life.
Prayer as a discipline means that we will set aside periods of time to spend in uninterrupted conversation with God. Just as Jesus went off to “a solitary place” to pray (Mark 1:35) so must we.
Prayer as a way of life means that we will continue our conversation with God throughout the day. Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
However, be careful here. We can easily rationalize not spending uninterrupted time with God because we “talk with him all the time.” Richard Foster wisely reminds us:
We will never have time to pray—we must make time. On this score we have to be ruthless with our rationalizations. We must never, for instance, excuse our prayerlessness under the guise of “always living prayerfully.” John Dalrymple rightly observes, “The truth is that we only learn to pray all the time everywhere after we have resolutely set about praying some of the time somewhere.” (Prayer, p. 74)
- Pray the Day
Ask God to help you use the natural schedule and circumstances of your day to communicate with him. For example, read and pray through the newspaper. Use the news of the day to prompt your prayers for people in need. Your drive to work, while not a substitute for a set aside time, can certainly be well spent talking to God (Just don’t close your eyes!). As God brings people in and out of your thoughts—talk to him about them. When you return to earth after a daydream—submit those dreams to him. When your thoughts stray into forbidden areas, confess them and ask his forgiveness. When anxiety and worry begin to come over you, remember Paul’s words to the Philippians:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Pray the day. Yes, we need to set aside time to meet with him! But we don’t need to wait until the next scheduled appointment to talk to our Father.
Prayer should not be intimidating. It is simply conversation with God.
So…let’s start talking! He waits with a listening ear. And…he will have some things to communicate with us as well.
Prayer is talk, conversation, communion with my Father and one does not address one whom one loves in the perfect, polished manner, paying attention to the phrases and the words and all the rest. There is surely something essentially spontaneous about true communion and fellowship [with God].
I challenge you to use the National Day of Prayer as a catalyst to get the conversation going with God!