Thursday, June 22, 2006

What Does It Mean to Pray?

Then He [Jesus] came to His disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)
Jesus said, “Watch and pray.” But what does it mean to pray? And how does one pray for an hour? The Greek word for “watch” means to keep alert, stay awake, be vigilant. Often, we do not know how to pray because we do not know how to watch with the Lord. If we watch, He will show us; if we listen, He will tell us. Then it is hard not to pray.

The flesh may be weak — but the spirit is willing. As believers in Jesus Christ, we not only have our human spirit born from above, but we also have the Holy Spirit. If the human spirit is willing, how much more is the Spirit of God in us willing.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pry for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. (Romans 8:26)
As I wrote in God’s Word in Your Mouth,
The Holy Spirit “helps” us. This is the Greek word sunantilambanomai, which speaks of two parties laying hold together, each one doing his part, to obtain a goal. The Holy Spirit does this by interceding for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, but which perfectly express the will of God for us. The whole creation groans, we groan within ourselves, the Holy Spirit groans within us — all working together to bring forth good. (p.22)
Paul talked about “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). “All prayer” means all kinds of prayer. “In the Spirit,” means that we are to let the Holy Spirit direct our prayers.
When you begin praying, don’t be in a hurry. Take your time and pray slowly. As you do, you may find that you feel an inward desire to expand upon some particular point. That is the Holy Spirit prompting you, and if you listen carefully, He will give you words to pray back to the Father. Go with this as far as the Spirit leads you.

When you come to the end, sit quietly and contemplate what the Spirit has given you. If you wish, you can pick up the prayer where you left off, and continue until the Spirit gives you more. When you come to the end of your prayer time, simply give thanks and praise to God and welcome His healing power at work in your life. (Healing Scriptures and Prayers, pp. 6-7)
Soren Kierkegaard said "A man prayed, and at first he thought that prayer was talking. But he became more and more quiet until in the end he realized that prayer is listening."

Smith Wigglesworth said that he rarely prayed for more than ten minutes at a time — but that he also rarely went more than ten minutes without praying.

Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection learned how to practice the presence of God, and speak to Him everywhere, so that his time in the kitchen was just as precious as his time in the chapel.

My own prayer time often includes singing hymns and praises to the Lord, reading the Scriptures and letting them springboard me into prayer, praying in tongues, quietness and listening.

Prayer is not about an hour, but about a life. The flesh may be weak, but the spirit — and the Holy Spirit — are more than willing. So do not attempt to pray by the flesh, by your own strength and ability, but pray by the Spirit.