Prayer is communion. For many Christians, prayer is merely a means of getting something from God, but it needs to be emphasised that prayer is actual communion. Many feel their lack in life and what easier way to fill that lack than to ask God to supply. Has not God promised to supply all our needs? As a result of this way of thinking, many prayers consist mostly of asking for things – some of them good, some not so good; some positively harmful, some impossible to fulfil.
To such people, God is the source of supply, the great giver, the inexhaustible fountain of good things. All they need to do is ask and God will do the rest. They measure their Christianity by the favourable answers they receive, and are satisfied when their request is denied. They are continually asking for something, and believe that God should always grant their request. Some even think it a lack of faith to add to their prayer, “If it be Thy will.” Like the prodigal son, they pray, “Father, give me.” –Luke 15:12.
Thy Will Be Done
In all this, it is not wrong to lift up to God prayers of petition. They are a genuine and legitimate form of prayer. We will always need to ask God for things we desire, but the prayers of petition are not to be the prevailing form of prayer. Prayers of praise, adoration and thanks-giving must always have priority.
Submissiveness to the will of God, complete dedication to Him and thorough consecration should be our main focus of prayer. When our prayers are changed from an effort to get God to do what we want, into an intense desire to find out what He wants, we will find ourselves breaking the habit of merely asking for things and demanding that God answers our prayers in our specific way.
It has been said that prayer from the human heart is an effort to make God change His mind. Many make no effort to find out what God wants, although they are very clear on what they want. They struggle with God; they agonise in prayer; they demand from Him what they believe should be done their way. It doesn't occur to them that they first should find out if God really wants me to have the things I desire. Is it for my good? Is it the will of God? Has the time come for it to be fulfilled? Is there some preparation on my part before the prayer is rewarded? Am I really willing to submit everything to God so that if He does not give me what I desire, I will be satisfied and thank Him for what He does give; or am I really more intent on getting what I want, rather than giving myself completely to God’s will?
What Prayer Is Not
Prayer is not a substitute for work. Christians confronted with severe problems have a right to ask God's help and to expect answers. But He does not excuse the Christian from hard, even taxing labour. God will strengthen the intellect, He will invigorate the mind, but He will not accept a prayer as a substitute for mental effort or give to those who are merely slothful. Those who are learning multiplication tables, must make the effort to learn them to memory to be proficient in mathematics. In most cases, it is prayer first, then an effort on our part. They go together. Neither is sufficient in itself.
It needs to be emphasised that the aim of prayer is not just to get God to do something we want. Some apply worldly methods and have a worldly philosophy in their approach to prayer. They have learned that as far as the world is concerned, to get anything they must 'go after it', so they take it for granted that to get anything out of God, they must 'go after it'. We can easily fall into the thinking that if God is not willing to grant our petitions with a great deal of coaxing, we just keep up our persistence and wheedling to get out of God what doesn't seem to be coming. No one can get out of God what they desire by continually annoying Him. God is not an unjust judge, He is a Father, more willing to give good gifts to His children, than they are to receive them. Wheedling, coaxing, cajoling, teasing, annoying, even mere persistence does not avail with God.
With the above to ponder on, we must not think that there is such a need as wrestling in prayer, or that we need only mention to God once for all we need and it will be forthcoming. Prayer is not quite as simple as that. There is definitely need for agonising, prevailing prayer – prayer that goes to the heart of the subject and is not satisfied till lives and circumstances are changed. Jesus prayed all night; Jacob wrestled with the angel; Daniel sought the Lord with prayer and fasting; Paul besought the Lord again and again. We need not pray less, but more and we need to learn to pray in faith. This is vital.
Remember, prayer is not a one-way conversation. Prayer is communion with God. To many, they seem to consider prayer as merely a means of informing God of certain things that need correction and of which He is apparently unaware. They believe God is in danger of forgetting certain things and their prayers take the form of reminding Him of what He should do. Having called God's attention to the need as they see it, they feel they have done their duty. They have 'said their prayer' and with 'Amen', their 'conversation' ends. It has been a monolog contact. They hope that God will use wisely the information which they have conveyed to Him, and that He will do something about the matter concerning which they have prayed.
Such consider that method as prayer – man speaking to God. Yet this is not the highest form of prayer. In true prayer God speaks to the soul as well as the soul to God. True friendship will not last long where one habitually does all the talking. In our prayers we often do this and expect God to do all the listening. But may it not be possible that God would like to communicate with us as well as we with Him? Is it possible that after we have offered our earnest prayer which we believe God in heaven has heard, that He might wish to say a word to us? Is it possible that after we have said our 'Amen', that God is just ready to communicate with us, perhaps by bringing to mind certain Scriptures or just consoling with us. But we get up off our knees and do not give God a chance to speak?
It must be painful to God that we 'hang up' or press the 'end button' and shut Him out just at the moment when He is ready to communicate with us. If we continue to persist in this for some time, our God can come to no other conclusion than we are not really anxious to have communion with Him. We merely 'say' our prayers and when we are done, we walk away. Such prayers surely cannot be all that God means by ‘communion.'
May it be remembered and repeated that prayer is communion. It is more than conversation; it is intimate fellowship. It is an exchange of views and ideas. It need not always be accompanied by words. Silence may be more eloquent than great streams of oratory. It is rather a kind of relationship and friendship grounded in quiet confidence and assurance, not necessarily accompanied by animation and great display.
Meditation is a vital necessity of prayer, yet mostly neglected. We appear before God, present our petitions and depart. Next time we do the same. We keep God informed in regards to our status, tell Him of things that need attention, and having thus delivered our needs and wants, we close the connection. This we do day after day, unaware that there is anything better.
The Psalms sound the depths of the Christian experience. David passed through some soul-harrowing trials. As he was fleeing for his life from Saul into the wilderness, he wrote Psalm sixty three – the cry of a soul longing for God; for a deeper knowledge of, and acquaintance with Him. David was evidently not satisfied with his prayer life. God was far away, as He didn't seem to answer. It was like addressing nobody in an empty room, yet He longed for God. His soul thirsted for a closer relationship, a deeper experience with the One whom he was reaching out in faith to protect him and deliver him.
Then David found the way. He at last found satisfaction through the real meaning and method of prayer. “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness. And meditate on Thee in the night watches.” — Ps 63:5,6. David had prayed many times before, but now he adds meditation and says that when he does, his soul is satisfied. “My mouth shall praise Thee with joyful lips: when I remember Thee upon my bed", and to him it is as “marrow and fatness,” as he praises God “with joyful lips.”
This record is of great value for the generations to follow. Many souls like David cry out for the living God. They are not satisfied. They believe that there must be something better than they are experiencing. They pray and pray and pray, yet God seems far away. He does not reveal Himself. Once in a while they seem to have a fleeting glimpse of His divine presence, then it is gone. Is there anything better, or is this all that prayer in Christianity can offer? There is something better and David found it.
“My soul shall be satisfied.” How wonderful to have the soul hunger satisfied and this possibility may become a reality! David points the way when he says that it may be obtained through remembering God and through meditation. It may be said that no one can really be a child of God and not pray, but not many are practised in the art of meditation. They pray but do not meditate, yet one is as important as the other. It is when David added meditation to prayer that he at last could say this his soul was satisfied.
Few Christians meditate. They are too busy; their work makes too many demands upon them. They rush from one thing to another and have little time to mend and nurture their own souls. There is so much to be done and they feel that unless they strain every nerve and are busy every moment, souls will be lost. They have no time to sit at the feet of the Master while the world is perishing. Their hearts are honest and conscientious, but their downfall is that activity is their watchword and they never slow down.
Stillness of the Soul
Yet how much is lost to themselves because of the lack of meditation! No soul can rush into the presence of God and out again and expect to enjoy communion with Him. The peace that passes understanding does not dwell in a restless heart. “Take time to be holy,” is more than a mere sentiment and title. It takes time to commune with God – time to be holy. “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” —Ps 4:4. The last statement needs emphasis. “Be still.” We are too restless, we need to learn quietness with God; we need to be still.
When we have prayed a sincere prayer and poured out our soul to Him with all our heart, we must not say “Amen” and get up and walk off. Give God an opportunity, wait for Him. He invites you to wait, let your whole soul be intent upon Him. It may be that God, through the still small voice, will make Himself known and precious will be the revelations which come.
Many of us have most probably experienced someone coming to us for some help, even to seek counsel, but in reality come only to present their own views. They seem anxious for the interview; yet hardly an opportunity is afforded for any counsel. They occupy the time themselves and seem satisfied when they have presented their story. When some measure of agreement with their view is received, they are content. The impression seems clear they did not come for counsel and help, but to impart information.
So it is too often in prayer. But may it be remembered that the most important part is not our speaking with God, but God speaking to us. True, God loves us to pray, and we cannot tire Him. Yet would it not be well to give God an opportunity to communicate with us? Surely God will not let us wait in vain, but will come to us and speak – perhaps through His word or through some Spirit of Prophecy counsel, or by His still small voice.
Going to Extremes
There is always danger of going to extremes. There are those who reject or take lightly the instruction given in the Bible and depend wholly on impressions. Such are in great danger. We believe God still leads those who are willing to be led, but that such leading will always be in harmony with God's revealed will, and will not in any way contradict the written Word. Wonderful as is the privilege of communing with God, and wonderful as is the privilege of meditation, there is danger of their misuse. Especially should the younger Christians be on their guard. Only long experience in the things of God, backed by a life of obedience to God's will, will enable one to judge meditation correctly.
Satan is ever ready to suggest his own thoughts, spiritual discernment is needed to know the voice that is speaking. This however, should not cause even young Christians to omit meditation. Far from it. God is ever near to help and guide and we may believe that the quiet hour spent with God will yield large results for the kingdom. Caution is offered to such as would be led by a voice speaking to the soul with the neglect to the counsel of the Word.
In the sanctuary of old, sacrifice and prayer were combined. Sacrifice stood for repentance, confession, restitution and dedication. When the lamb was placed on the altar, the repentant sinner in type laid himself and his all on the altar. It signified his acceptance of the justice of the law that demanded a life. It signified his consecration to God. Without this attitude, the sacrifice of a lamb was only a mockery. So our prayers may be only a mockery unless we, from a sincere heart, abstain from sin and dedicate ourselves entirely to God. Prayer must have sincerity as a foundation and background. It must be grounded in repentance and godly sorrow for sin. It must be evidenced by confession and restitution. A prayer thus offered will not remain unanswered. God is true to His word.
Based on The Sanctuary by M L Andreason on the chapter of Prayer.