In modern American churches, we tend to think of prayer as closing our eyes and saying words aloud. Since when was the dignity of prayer cheapened into such a pitiful form?
The authority on this subject I have to hand over to the Catholics. I so admire their history on the subject and the high respect they continue to give it. I am not here to bash vocal prayer; it’s a method of prayer that we practice regularly in the prayer room and I think it’s very necessary. But there’s so much more to prayer.
Here’s my quarrel with vocal prayer: prayer is so powerful (more on that later) and yet most of the time when we close our eyes and pray aloud, we’re not thinking about what we’re praying and even less are we thinking about Whom we are praying to.
“If a person does not think Whom he is addressing, and what he is asking for, and who it is that is asking and of Whom he is asking it, I do not consider that he is praying at all even though he be constantly moving his lips.” – St. Teresa of Avila,Fire Within
I’m going to do a series of posts on prayer: different types of prayer, the power of prayer…I guess it’s my weak attempt to change the mindset of my culture. Everything that I will say I’ve learned myself – I won’t be parroting my teachers or plagiarizing a book.
About a year ago, someone (we’ll call her Sarah) was talking to me about how great the next big conference was going to be. She told me how anointed the speakers and worship leaders would be and how much fun I would have. I anticipated going to the conference for about 3 months and when the time finally came, the messages were nothing new and the worship was good (but heaven didn’t come down like Sarah told me it would).
When I listened to Sarah talk about how great the conference would be and I bought into it, I was participating in hype. Hype is when worship is all of the sudden really good…because your favorite song is being sung by the hot guy on stage. Hype is when you get excited about the new, inspiring message…week after week after week.
If I get something out of a conference, great! But I want to live my Christianity in between conferences too. Paul used the analogy of a race:
“…Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run withendurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Heb. 12:1b-2a
To run with endurance, I must stay steady. When the revival comes and goes, I want a steady, long-term relationship with Jesus that produces fruit in heaven. Relationships take time and effort, and I believe the best ones are those that are cultivated the most.
Father, give me the grace to run the race with endurance.
I’ve unashamedly stolen my title from Dave, one of my former teachers. When I read those words in a recent post of his, I was struck by their truth. I, too, am familiar with the illusion of fervency and the reputation of zeal.
No matter where I am, I seem to quickly learn how to blend in to the culture around me. In a church, that looks like raising my hands during worship and taking notes during the message. In a prayer room, that looks like pacing or sitting with my Bible open. But how quickly do those legitimate things turn in to just an illusion to keep those around me from finding out that I’m daydreaming?
Pacing is actually a good example of the illusion of fervency. Visitors to a prayer room often think that those pacing are the “super spiritual,” that they are really “engaged” with the team on stage. In reality, most of us pace for two reasons: to stay awake and to stay focused. I guess it’s just another example of, “Man looks at outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)
Just like this commercial illustrates, things are often not what they seem. I guess I’m just trying to say that instead of wanting to look righteous, these days I’m more interested in actually living it out on the inside. Yes, I still have fear of man, but I want to be sincere in everything I do, even if it goes against the culture I’m placed in.