I must admit that I really don’t understand prayer. I pray because He tells me to and I know it works. As I think about what prayer is it is clear that it is relational, positional and directional. Let me give you a few thoughts to consider.
1. Prayer is Relational
We talk about having a personal relationship with Christ. I wrote various friends about this concept and received a wonderful response from Ray Stedman, a friend that I respect so much. He answered that to him it meant that " Christ was a personality who was knowable and who had the personality qualities of love and care and understanding."
Our relationship is best expressed with a spirit of gratitude, not request. Gratitude is our best antidote for anxiety. When Art Demoss was losing so much money I would call him and ask how he was doing. He would always say, "Better than I deserve." Truth is, most of us are doing better than we deserve but just not better than we wish for. In prayer we demonstrate the nature of this relationship and acknowledge it through gratitude. Prayer is conversation born of relationship.
2. Prayer is Positional
In a sense, prayer is when I get into harmony with God like the orchestra tuning before they begin to play. They decide what A 440 really is. In a more theological way, we reach the place Christ did when he said, "not my will but thine be done." This is the proper position and as far as I know it is best attained in prayer. I have the opportunity to pray because of my position in Christ, but I understand the serious nature of this position in prayer, as well. Access speaks of worship to me.
Often there is a great deal of struggle till we get to that point of relaxed comfort. Robbie is a plumber up in Colorado who does a great deal of work down in very tight places in basements and underground buildings. When I asked him if he ever becomes affected with claustrophobia he answered , "No, not really, but when I’m squeezing through a real tight place I’ve had to learn to relax or I get stiff and my body seems to swell up so I just lay there until I can get relaxed and then I can wiggle out." Oftentimes I have felt myself becoming inflexible and even feeling like I’m swelling up, badly needing to relax and become flexible again. This is the positional quality of prayer: "thy will be done."
3. Prayer is directional
Father Cavanaugh , former President of Notre Dame, used to say to other leaders, "be right. " When we really want to be right, then prayer is a great way to find the direction.. Steve Brown tells how a layman came and asked him to pray about whether or not he should give up his mistress, to which Steve said, "Get lost. You and I both know that’s wrong and there’s no point in praying about it." There isn’t any point in praying that wrong become right. It’s only when we want truly to know the will of God that we can ask for the direction as we receive it through "the witness of the spirit." This may be mystical for some of you but don’t think of it as anything other than scriptural. The spirit sounds for us that ring of truth. Just as there is true North, there is true direction that we can through prayer.
Prayer changes me. It affirms my relationship to Christ, it helps me assume the position of wanting His will and it clearly sets the direction.