Today is #NationalDayOfPrayer and to be completely honest, I didn't truly realize the importance of prayer until recently. My sole focus was studying the Bible (which is important), without actually communicating with the one who inspired it (2 Timothy 3:16). Don't get me wrong, I pray, but if I had only an hour in the morning, that 55 minutes of it would be spent reading the Bible and the other 5 would be spent in prayer. Little backwards, right?
Growing up, prayer to me was some deep spooky spiritual thing that people did in a closet with a mini statue of Jesus surrounded by candles. I thought they were in there wrestling with spirits and demons with sacrificial lambs and voodoo dolls. Silly right? Mind you, I have never once seen anybody do that, yet still that was my perception of it. Prayer was often referred to as spiritual warfare, so that's where my mind went.
Yet prayer is so much more than that.
Simply put, prayer is a direct line of access to God. Basically like a personal phone to God that only He answers. It's the way we communicate with Him and to be clear, that line is ALWAYS open, no matter who you are or where you are. No matter what time, morning, noon or night, that line is open. God craves time with us and one of the best ways to spend that time is in prayer with him. It's our most important tool as Christians and our greatest gift because it gives us direct access to God for forgiven for our sins, something we didn't always have.
Before Jesus died on the cross, there was a process to be in God's presence for atonement of sins, that only a select few experienced, once a year. Prayer is so important that it was the first gift God gave us after the death of Jesus. Before we could even sing of His praises of being raised from the dead, God gave us permission to come to Him first. Before the Resurrection, God gave us access. Take a look at Mark 15:37–38, describing the death of Jesus:
37 Then Jesus uttered another loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. (NLT)
Let me give you a little background.
During that time period, the Jewish temple was the center of their religious life. It was built with very specific measurements and instructions and the most important room in that temple was the Holy of Holies, separated by a heavy veil (said to be 4 inches thick), where God's presence rested. This place was so holy that only the High Priest was allowed to enter, and he only entered once a year with a sacrifice to make atonement for his sins and the sins of the nation. Essentially to receive mercy and grace you had to rely on the High Priest to enter on your behalf, there was no direct access between you and God. However when Jesus died, the veil ripped from top to bottom, completely in two, signifying that Jesus' sacrifice was enough to give the Jewish community (and the rest of us) unrestricted direct access to God. No longer did we need to wait once a year to receive mercy and grace and no longer did we need the High Priest to go on our behalf: God gave us the gift to go directly to Him, ourselves.
Which makes prayer one of our most valuable and most precious gift that we have.
And prayer looks different for everyone because everyone communicates differently. For me , the way I enjoy praying is through journaling. I've always felt that I was a much better writer than I was speaker, so I communicate with God through a letter. In this letter, I pray for family and friends, my church and the leaders I serve with, my pups, my community, etc. I thank God for what He's done and what He'll do. I confess my mistakes and sins and ask for help in the areas that I'm working on. I pray for instruction, discipline, wisdom and clarity; and I do all of this in the form of a letter. Some days this letter is only a few sentences, other days it's pages long.
But prayer doesn't have to be a long elaborate letter or even a long elaborate speech. The Bible says to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17, KJV) and I believe that includes quick spoken prayers as well. It can be quick 2 minute conversations with God throughout your day thanking Him for what He's done. Or faced with a decision, asking Him for guidance. It could be a quick prayer of blessing for the person who just cut you off in traffic (I have done this, instantly changed my mood). It could be just sending a quick thanks up to God, which is all modeled by Ephesians 6:18:
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. (NIV)
The goal is constant conversation, which we get to do through prayer.
So Happy #NationalDayOfPrayer and if you're reading this, say a prayer for me too. :)
It would be a travesty for me to write a blog post about prayer and not offer you, my reader a line for prayer as well. So if you, or someone you know, needs prayer, feel free to drop your prayer request in the comment section or even better: email me at email@example.com and of course I will pray for you. You can be as vague or a personal as you want.