Life (22)

About Face

A praying life requires a 180-degree about-face from the direction our human nature would lead us. Our flesh is bent on doing a good job, getting it right, proving our ability. A praying life is built on a principle that is the polar opposite of our flesh’s instincts: letting go, yielding, admitting helplessness. It doesn’t come easily to us.

Jesus ratified this principle as of primary importance in His first formal sermon. We refer to His opening remarks as the Beatitudes. The first words out of Jesus’ mouth, once the crowd had gathered, were “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Prayer is reaching into the kingdom and drawing on its resources. What is the prerequisite for having complete access to the kingdom? Being poor in spirit.

The word for “poor” means destitute: a beggar whose only hope is to receive from the hand of another. Until we recognize the blessedness of being wholly dependent on God, who even produces prayer in us, we won’t live in the abundance that could be ours. Our helplessness is our strongest plea. I illustrated this concept in Set Apart as follows:

I recently had the tiniest glimpse of how powerfully helplessness speaks. A few years ago, I lost my husband to brain cancer. During the final months of his illness, he became utterly helpless. The man I had leaned on for 25 years, whose strength I counted on, was now dependent upon me for his every need. During those weeks, my ear was tuned to his every sigh, his every restless movement, every change in his breathing pattern. If I had to be out of his room for even a few minutes, I had a monitor with me so I could hear him if he needed me. When he was strong, I was not so attentive. His needs did not fill my waking moments, when he could meet them himself. His helplessness spoke louder than any word he might have spoken. Because of his helplessness—because I knew he could do nothing on his own—I was on watch day and night.

My experience is but a pale shadow of the reality of the Kingdom, but still it helps me understand how my weakness is the opening for His strength. The fact of my helplessness is the only prayer I need. It speaks louder than eloquence.

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Jesus' Praying Life

The first breakthrough understanding about prayer is that there is no recipe to follow, no “ten easy steps” to power in prayer. Power praying does not require that you master a skill, but that you pursue a present-tense relationship with the living and indwelling Jesus.

Prayer marked Jesus’ life. Long, extended times of prayer. Spontaneous eruptions of prayer. Prayer in public, and with His disciples. Certainly Jesus, who only did and spoke what the Father showed Him, did not use prayer to argue, or beg, or try to change God’s mind. Then why did Jesus pray? Why was prayer such a hallmark of His life that His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray like He prayed? If He wasn’t giving God instructions, what was He doing when He rose up early to pray or spent all night in prayer?

I think we might get a hint from His time in Gethsemane, where some of His words are recorded and so we get a glimpse into the tenor of His interchange with the Father. We see Him synchronizing His heart with the Father’s heart.

I think it works like this: I have many mobile electronic devices that I use to accomplish my daily tasks, or to entertain myself, or to stay in touch with others. I do most of my work on my main desktop computer, but then I need to transfer the work I’ve done, or the information I’ve added, or the files I’ve edited from my main computer to my mobile devices. How do I accomplish that? How do I get what is on the hard drive of my computer downloaded onto my mobile devices? I link the mobile device to the computer and a program is activated that automatically syncs my mobile device to my computer. What is on my computer is reproduced on my mobile device.

In His all-night prayer in Gethsemane, we see Jesus linking His heart to the Father’s. Let me summarize the content of His recorded prayer in some new words. “Father, download Your will into my heart so that it overwrites any other desire. Download courageous faith that deletes fear. Synchronize My heart’s desire to Yours.”

What came from that heart-to-heart transaction? Observe the Jesus who emerges from His hours of agony. Courageous, forceful, marching out to meet His enemy rather than waiting to be taken. Handing Himself over to the purposes of the Father without reservation.

“The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Mark 14:41–42).

From Live a Praying Life, Anniversary Edition.

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