15 March 2011

A challenging devotional thought from CD Baker

Why do I only pray in emergencies?

When I was a boy, I loved to watch professional wrestling on television. That's the crazy sporting event where huge men pretend to pound the life out of each other.

One of my favorite matches was the tag team. Eachwrestler had a partner who would stand outside the ropes as a backup. When a wrestler was almost beaten, he'd stretch his hand out and tap his partner's. The the partner would come in and crush the opponent.

That's how I usually think of prayer. I'm the wrestler fighting with life; the Holy Spirit is my partner just beyond the ropes. When I can't take any more, I reach for him.

Now, I realize prayer should be different than a tag-team match, but if I'm honest, prayer is usually my last option - the one after everything else goes wrong.

Why is that?

"Pray without ceasing" was Paul's command in 1 Thessalonians 5.17. It seems straightforward enough. But do I? Do we?

Well... I don't.

Is it because I don't really believe prayer makes a difference? Or do I think God isn't really listening? Do I doubt his interest in the humdrum of my daily life? Does it seem like too much effort?


But I think the main reason I pray last is because I imagine I can handle most things on my own.

And I'm pretty sure many of us think like that.

Why? It may be that we've bought into the ideas of self-sufficiency. We're taught by our culture to be independent minded. And we've been taught in churches (probably unwittingly) that life functions according to a partnership of sorts: we do our part and the Holy Spirit does his. So life becomes something of a "God helps those who help themselves" thing.

With the Holy Spirit is reduced to a "partner,"  we instinctively approach a problem by looking to our own strengths first.

And when we successfully overcome some situation without "bothering" to pray, we feel pretty good about ourselves. At least I do. And feeling good about ourselves is a very powerful motivator.

But when we (I) fail in life, we usually do turn to prayer. Yet strange as it seems, that can make some of us actually feel ashamed. In a weird way, having to pray becomes an admission of failure... and that's awfully hard to do without feeling ashamed.

I can't help but wonder if we've missed the whole idea of prayer because we've missed the real nature of our relationship with Christ.

Instead of a partnership, we are in union with Christ (see Galations 2:20).

Understanding that better might actually begin to change our whole idea of prayer. Union is like a relationship between spouses or the closest of friends in which a mingling of identities occurs. Words aren't always exchanged, but there is a conscious awareness of the other. Prayer is this kind of engagement, a state of union that leaves no room for self-sufficiency.

Understood as communion with God, prayer is never a first, second or last option... It isn't an option at all.

It just is.

Our lives become prayers.

That's because every event, decision, reaction, hope or disappointment in life is awash in union with him... One who sometimes uses words and is sometimes silent but is always exchanging thanksgivings or requests, sharing joys or fears. Prayer is no longer some special act that taps into "his part" to help "our part."

Instead, prayer becomes a state of being with the Spirit and us engaging life as one.

To me, this is "praying without ceasing."

Now, if I could get my prideful, self-reliant self out of the way, I might actually experience the joy of union with him. And prayer would become the automatic, uninterrupted connection with the One with whom I dwell.

This suddenly sounds like a way of life worth praying for!

(This devo was found in CD Baker's book ~ Forty Loaves: Breaking Bread with our Father Each Day.)

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