By Brock Bondurant
Mark 1:35 – And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
How’s your prayer life? If you’re like me, you probably begin to assess yourself based on the number of times you’ve “prayed” lately. I feel like that’s usually where I begin. And it’s never enough, right? But is that really what prayer is – an act with a definitive start and stop? Well, maybe it can be, but it’s so much more. I may not always live like it, but I believe that prayer is more of a lifestyle, a continual conversation. I want to live a life of prayer; a life constantly in tune to the ongoing conversation between Creator and created.
As we look at practicing the way of Jesus, it’s easy to see that he lives a lifestyle saturated in prayer. It seems like he is always praying. I think the way he walked was probably a prayer within itself! And it is good, like Jesus, to get away in solitude with the Father to pray. A set daily rhythm to pray is extremely important. But prayer is much more than just a scheduled appointment. It can happen in so many different ways. We see Jesus pray for people, pray with people, pray alone, pray aloud, and pray through action. He shows power, dependence, worship, and interceding through prayer. Prayer centers us, sustains us, grows us, and enhances our relationship with God. Like any relationship, a failure to communicate leads to relational dysfunction. Prayer is open communication with the Creator of the Universe, and he’s always speaking, though we aren’t always listening.
I’ve seen a major shift of what prayer looks like for me. I think early on in our walk with Jesus our prayer looks like a lot of words and requests spoken to God. This was how it was for me and then somewhere along the way, it got hard! I didn’t have words like I used to. Then I realized that though words weren’t always coming out of my mouth, the conversation was continuing. This is when I learned that like conversation, half or more of prayer is about listening. Prayer is a two-way conversation. As much as I’d love to audibly fill the air with words to God, I think it’s even better to receive words from God. And if we’re tuning into and seeking Him, I think this two-way conversation is continually happening. It takes effort through practices like silence & solitude and prayer to tune our ears into what God is saying.
There’s a reason that prayer is emphasized so much by Jesus and the Church. Something supremely transcendent happens when we pray. Prayer has power; power to move mountains, influence circumstances, and maybe most powerful of all is the way it transforms our hearts. Through prayer we advance the Kingdom to the ends of the earth with our heart as the epicenter. Prayer helps us align our will with the Father’s as he listens to our pain, our praise, our joy, disappointment, gratitude, and frustration. With God as the supreme author of all Scripture he even shows us how to pray all of these emotive experiences through the book of Psalms. When I get stuck, I start there. The Psalms have given me language to express to God the state of my heart and, perhaps more importantly, hearing the state of God’s heart towards me. And I can think of no more beneficial thing for my soul in prayer than that. As we commune with God, he shares his heart with us. With that, our transformation begins.