Day 29: Prayer
“My house shall be called a house of prayer”
Jesus drove the money changers out with a cord of whips he made by hand. Deliberate and forceful action.
Jesus is frequently seen rising early, well before anyone else and going off to pray. At the raising of Lazarus, Jesus prays out loud.
There’s the parable of The Pharisee and the Tax Collector:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortions, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
His disciples ask him how to pray and He teaches them an incredibly short prayer:
Our Father, who is in heaven, Holy is your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. And give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks his disciples to pray while he is praying and they sleep instead.
And when Jesus is arrested, his disciples scatter. But Jesus had prayed for them.
Saul is searching for and imprisoning followers of Jesus. He is blinded on the road to Damascus, and challenged by the Risen Christ: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Later the Lord sends Ananias to Saul. Ananias is a little hesitant to go. His reassurance is “you will find him praying.”
Here are the new converts to Christ in Acts:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
So, let me ask the hard question: how are you praying?
Jesus drove the money changers and the animals out of the meeting space around the temple. We have many distractions to focusing on prayer. I deliberately get up early and pray in the darkness of the pre-dawn hours. It started as a part of my Lenten practice in 2016. I used a simple daily devotion using this app. (I invert the colors on my phone to keep the light level way down.)
It wasn’t easy. My body complained. My mind rebelled. But the spirit had life. And because of that posture I was able to take a hard lesson that came a few months later.
Healing of my anxious soul was interwoven with the fabric of prayer. My mind is focused on scripture and the old prayers of saints long dead. I breathe back to the Lord the worries and cares of my heart. I now use the book of common prayer Rite 2, morning devotion. This particular one includes the Lectionary readings.
May I encourage you to drive out the distractions in your own life and find the time to pray. It cannot be truly comprehended in any other way.
Prayer, at its center, is experiential: it must be done to be truly understood.