Upper Room TL;DNR
If it worked, chances are it started with a prayer. In the Bible, all the significant miracles (as if there were any other kind) only happen after some kind of acknowledgement of Source, some kind of conscious communion. That’s the only way any of this works.
Prayer is at the heart of everything we do around here. Our services, our shared meals, our meetings, and everything else start with a prayer. I try and follow suit in my own life. Every morning, after the alarm goes off and before my feet hit the floor, I take a moment to connect. I don’t think I could do any of the things that ought to be done by me without that little morning prayer.
Everybody’s working on different challenges and growth opportunities in life, but when people come to me for spiritual counseling, I always ask the same thing: "Are you praying?" Without that, it’s pretty tough to get where you want to go. But with it, you’re unstoppable.
But why should we pray?
That question isn’t as simpleminded as it might seem. After all, if God is everywhere, if every moment is Spirit expressing, why is prayer so important? After all, I don’t need to commune with gravity in order to keep from spinning off into space, and I don’t need to acknowledge the air in order to breathe it. Isn’t God even more immanent than that?
So, again, why?
Maybe you don’t have to think much about gravity in order to get through an average day. But what if you’re climbing a mountain, or getting on a skateboard, or working on your jump shot? Perhaps it’s not important to know how air works in order to get to work or pay your taxes. But what if you’re flying a jet? If you’re doing something exceptional or important, a deeper level of involvement is required. Allow me to answer the "why pray" question with another question:
What kind of life do you want to live?
If an average day is sufficient, if good enough is good enough, if an ideal year is 364 carbon copies of day one, then I guess no further action or reflection is necessary. But that’s not why we’re here. You know what Socrates said about the unexamined life. Each of us is born with a burning homesickness for something bigger. Each of us is endowed with phenomenal grace and power. You, in other words, are important. So let’s do this. It all starts with prayer.
You don’t need a degree in theology, or physics, for that matter, to get a handle on the prayer process. You just have to know what it is. The definition I grew up with is the one I still use. Prayer is conscious communion with God. That’s it.
For prayer to be prayer, it has to have all three elements. It must be conscious, meaning it can’t happen against our will, without our knowing, or on our behalf through the work of somebody else. It must be a communion, a process of sharing and cooperation rather than an exercise in begging or demanding. It must be with God. No intermediaries, no personalities, no special equipment, and no ego. No matter what you’re doing, if it has those three elements, it’s prayer. If not, than it’s something else.
That’s the what. Now for the how.
This post is the first of seven articles about the prayer process. I’d love for to read them all. I’m also going to put out a seven-episode video series. Please stay tuned. But that’s a lot.
Right now, here’s what you need to know about prayer. See, Speak, and Surrender. If you know those three steps, you really know everything you need to know about how to pray.
Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. (Mark 11:23-24, NASB)
Some people think that a special set of magic passwords will let them into the clubhouse. Those words are typically available for very reasonable prices. But prayer doesn’t start with what you say. It starts with what you see. The first step in the process is faith. If you can see God at work, if you let yourself be filled with that knowing, the words you say will be a natural byproduct. It doesn’t work the other way around. Nothing does, really. You can’t make somebody love you, and you can’t make yourself love somebody, by writing a particularly clever poem. But if the love is there, if you see with those eyes, the sonnets will compose themselves.
Start with what you see. It’s okay if you don’t know all there is to know about God. Nobody can, anyway. Just start with what you do know. Start small if you must, but start where you are. Let yourself build from there. The words you say will be the right ones. You can talk to God just like you’d talk to a friend. You don’t need to speak Aramaic.
But speak. The second step is the action step. Whether you‘re saying words, standing up for something, or moving into a healthier situation, this is prayer as a verb.
And then, and this is the tricky part, get out of the way. Jesus doesn’t tell us to speak to the mountain and then go buy a shovel. He says that it will be granted. Some translations offer that as "..and it will be done for you." The surrender part is us getting out of the way and letting God be God. It means that we’ve gotten in touch with the desires of our hearts and placed them, metaphorically, on the altar. God has a better idea, right? So it needs to be okay with us that our miracles unfold in unexpected ways.
The "See, Speak, Surrender" pattern can be found in all the miracles we read about in Scripture. It can be found working in all the demonstrations we experience in our lives. Try it and see.
I want you to make time for prayer every day. Set an alarm on your phone, if that helps. You can do it however you want. It’s okay if you start with somebody else’s words, like the Lord’s Prayer or our Invocation. If you feel led to participate in our Family Focus prayer time, that’s wonderful, too. By and by, however, you’ll start to find your own words, ones that more specifically address where you’re at and what you’re working on.
But make and take that time. It will change everything for you. Let’s get started.