Our Evening Church recently spent a weekend away to explore the topic of prayer. Brett Middleton was our guest speaker and he delivered four talks that challenged us to think about what’s going on when we pray.
The first talk struck a chord with many of us. We were challenged to rethink what prayer is all about. Prayer is often an experience of guilt for Christians – “I don’t pray enough” or “I don’t feel good enough to come before God”.
We were taken to the opening of the Lord’s prayer where the disciples were encouraged to pray “Father”. This opening immediately recognised that God isn’t a distant deity only to be referred to by title (as in the Jewish prayers of the day), but an intimate God who created a space for his people to call him “Father”.
So, rather than drowning in the knowledge of all we’ve done wrong, we were encouraged to drown in the knowledge that God is our Father.
He is a Father who has spoken to us through his creation, through his word, through his Son, through the gospel and through his Spirit (Hebrews 1:1-3). Prayer is therefore more than talking to God. It is answering God.
Like a parent talking to their child well before the first word comes back, God has been talking to us. And like a child who finds their voice and talks about anything and everything without fixating on the right words, the right length of time or the right subject matter, we are invited to respond to God.
So rather than feeling guilty in prayer, when we focus on the world of our relationship with God, that he is our Father and we are his children, we find our voice.
Other talks addressed the importance of praying the concerns of our heart and surrendering them to God, of praying in line with the concerns of God, and of praying in the light of having been saved from slavery to sin and heading to the land of promise (heaven).
Each session had time allocated to put into practice the things we had been hearing with prayer groups, open prayer and time alone with God.
There were also seminars which addressed practical ways of implementing the things we had been hearing in the talks and how to go about 1:1 Bible reading with another person.
It was an excellent time of building relationships together, but most importantly our relationship with God.