The Bare Soul
April 28, 2013
Changing the Paradigm of Prayer, Part I
I Thessalonians 5:17 - Pray without ceasing.
Throughout my Christian life, I have given myself to prayer and what many would consider the prayer movement, attending numerous prayer meetings as the result. As God has given me more responsibility around this vital ministry, people have asked me over the years how to become a more effective prayer warrior. My answer has generally been very simply to pray, and then pray some more, and then ... pray more. However, this is often more easily said than done. Distractions and complacency can be huge detractors that can easily lead us away from the place of prayer. In our minds, we know the prayer closet is truly the place of power in the Christian's life. However, we deny the power because we often do not understand the dynamics of what it means to pray effectively. Paul told the church in Thessalonica to "pray without ceasing." While this may seem like an impossibility to us today, I believe that Paul modeled this in such a way as to make it not only feasible but also practical.
Recently I was counseling a gentleman at the rescue mission where I chaplain. A few months earlier, this man had wrecked havoc in his marriage and with his children. He had said some things and acted in ways that made him feel extremely guilty. He was allowing these feelings to overwhelm him constantly. He asked me what he could do about these feelings. I told him instead of allowing these thoughts to continue to haunt him, that he should instead pray for those he had offended. His eyes glazed over a bit. I could tell he thought this was a canned answer. However, I next explained what I meant in context with Paul's admonition to the Thessalonians. The mind, I told him, is the controlling influence in our lives. This is command central for a human being and whatever we decide in our minds is eventually what will become embedded in our desires, and ultimately, our heart. I explained to this brother in the Lord how turning our thinking to praying is critical when learning how to master our emotions.
Not too long ago, the Lord shared a very simple statement with me in this regard. He said, "Stop thinking and start praying." Like this counselee, we can too often allow the flesh and the devil to pulverize us with negative thoughts about ourselves and others. However, the aforementioned evils can also tactically lead us into useless, mindless thinking that is not necessarily good or bad. We might be thinking about how the guy down the street seems to always have a lush green lawn. How does he do it? While this is not bad in and of itself, maybe God has led us in our thoughts to the "guy down the street" for another reason. Maybe He would have us to pray for his soul rather than to covet his lawn? If we will open our minds to the things of God, He will show us how much of our thinking power is wasted when it could be praying power.
I am convinced that Paul was consumed with being wholly given for the purposes of God. That is why he tells us in Colossians 3:1-2 not to set our minds on the things of earth, but on the things above where Christ is seated at the right-hand of God. Paul was all about kingdom building. He knew that nothing else mattered. That is why he understand first the mechanics and then the dynamics of how to pray without ceasing. If Paul was counseling others today, he might very well tell them what he told the Philippian church regarding divine forgetfulness. He might tell them the paramount importance of forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13). Paul understood how the mind can torture someone regarding their past. The imperative was to not give the flesh or the devil the power by merely trying to quit thinking about our former sinful lives. Instead, it was critical to turn the conversation toward God in prayer. When we attempt to have a conversation with our past, we will always lose. For when we do, the flesh and the devil are always there to reinforce our impotence to do anything about it. However, when we change the conversation and instead converse with God, a most remarkable thing begins to happen.
See next week's Bare Soul, "Changing the Paradigm of Prayer - Part II" for the conclusion.
Your Barefoot Servant,
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