The Privilege of Prayer | October 11th, 2022
Have you ever thought about what an amazing privilege it is to talk to God, the Creator of the universe? What is even more amazing is that He listens to us! I was blessed to grow up in a home where my parents prayed about everything. If I shared the smallest worry or a big success, my mom would often say, “Let’s talk to God about it” or “Let’s thank the Lord for that!” Over the years, as I grew closer in my relationship with God, I became quite comfortable talking to Him just like I would a good friend.
I love that we are always welcome to come into God’s presence and tell Him what is on our mind. We don’t have to be eloquent or have the right words. He just wants to hear from us.
What is Prayer?
The basic definition of prayer is “talking to God.” Prayer is the way for those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior to communicate, fellowship, and draw near to God. It helps us develop our relationship with Him while demonstrating our trust and complete dependence on Him.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains it this way: “Christian prayer in its full New Testament meaning is prayer addressed to God as Father, in the name of Christ as Mediator, and through the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit.”
Why do we pray? We pray to praise God, give Him gratitude, and express our love for Him. We pray because we enjoy being in His presence and sharing our life with Him. We pray to make requests, seek His guidance, and ask for wisdom. And we pray according to His will, not ours, as it aligns with His Word. As we grow in our love for Him, we will naturally desire to talk to Him more. We are encouraged to come to Him at anytime!
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
What Prayer is Not
Prayer is not meditation or passive reflection. However, there is a type of mystical prayer being taught in churches today which is far from biblical. It’s known as contemplative prayer. It has other names like centering prayer, listening prayer, breath prayer, and prayer of the heart. These are very much like a “Christianized” transcendental meditation, similar to New Age or Buddhist meditation. You are to sit quietly, empty your mind, and repeat a biblical word or phrase over and over until you begin “hearing from God.”
Nowhere in Scripture are we told to pray this way. When the disciples asked Jesus how they should pray, He never said they should empty their mind and repeat a mantra. In fact, He was against it!
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. Matthew 6:7-8
Be Present When You Pray
During typical contemplative prayer or meditation, the alpha brain waves are engaged. These are low-frequency waves that occur while resting or not concentrating on anything in particular. By contrast, beta waves are high-frequency that are involved in conscious thought, logical thinking, and characteristic of a strongly engaged mind. They allow us to focus. A person in active conversation would be in beta.
God desires for us to be fully present when we pray. We are coming before our Creator who is very personal, not some impersonal energy force with whom we zone out!
When we pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ, it comes through reading His Word, the ultimate authority. That is what transforms our life. But the pursuit in contemplative prayer is all about the “experience” while being detached from an active mind.
Experience vs. Relationship
When our relationship with God is reduced to a methodology (not Scripture), it makes us dependent on the experience. The Word of God is far beyond any experience. If our faith in Him is based on experience, it is not faith. Faith must be based on God’s revealed truth in His Word.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17
Contemplative prayer is a discipline practiced by those who are not content with a relationship with God through His established way of praying and studying of the Scriptures. They seek a type of “spiritual buzz” as the feelings produced can be intense and even intoxicating according to advocates of contemplative prayer. They are looking for the next big rush which can be addicting. Experience can become mundane and, like a drug, there is a craving to have something more. This is all feelings-based which constantly changes, unlike the Word of God.
When we share our heart with God in full consciousness, he gives us His peace which guards our heart and mind.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
The word for guard in Greek is phroureó. In this verse it means “to guard as by a military guard.” His peace is working to defend our mind from all potential invaders, taking whatever defensive or offensive action is necessary to protect our heart and mind. This protection comes from God’s peace which is given to us when we communicate with Him.
The Danger of Emptying the Mind
This protection is not granted, however, when we engage in contemplative / listening prayer. Richard Foster, who has taught worldwide on spiritual formation, knows the danger of this practice as it includes emptying the mind or allowing it to be in an altered state of consciousness. This is an open invitation to demonic influence – the same as you find with any form of mystical meditation.
In his book Prayer- Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster warns:
Before you enter into your time of listening prayer ask God to bind the enemy and prevent him from speaking or interfering in any way with your time. A good prayer for this is, “By the authority of almighty God I surround myself with the light of Christ, I cover myself with the blood of Christ, I seal myself with the cross of Christ. All dark and evil spirits must now leave. No influence is allowed to come near to me but that it is first filtered through the light of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.”
What?? Where does it say in Scripture that we should first speak a prayer of protection before we can pray? Nowhere!!! This is the danger we face when we get away from the truth of God’s Word and are more focused on our emotions, feelings, and the experience.
Dallas Willard, professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California and author within the evangelical church, is another major proponent of contemplative spirituality. He says, “Indeed, solitude and silence are powerful means to grace. Bible study, prayer and church attendance, among the most commonly prescribed activities in Christian circles, generally have little effect for soul transformation…”
Contemplative practices also include yoga, labyrinth walking, chanting, rituals, mindfulness, silence, clearing the mind, and Lectio Divina (personal revelation derived from divine reading, rooted in monastic mysticism). These are now infiltrating evangelical churches, contributing to the movement that is defiantly pushing away from sola scriptura (Scripture alone), the solid foundation and only authority for the Christian faith.
Why is this happening? Pastors are ignoring sound doctrine, desiring experience instead, and allowing false teachings into the church as they ever so subtly abandon the gospel.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4
With contemplative prayer, Scripture loses its position as the final, authoritative Word from God because it teaches that we must seek outside of Scripture to hear all God is saying. What rubbish! God’s Word is perfect and has everything we need…
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11
How to Pray According to God’s Word
- Meditate on Scripture. It is God’s design for us to have our mind and heart full of the Word of God, not empty, when we pray. His truth is what transforms us and renews our mind.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8
- Never regard prayer as a mere exercise. Prayer is about a relationship with a personal, holy God, not a methodology thought up by man. He is our Father and friend who loves us unconditionally. He wants us to share from our heart and longs for us to reach out to Him in response to His presence. When we talk to Him, He listens!
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. Jeremiah 29:12
- Be alert and talk to God just as we would with a friend. Prayer is a conversation with God. He will speak to us through His Word, not through a mind cleared of all thought.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
- Confess sin and humbly acknowledge our position before God as a rebellious sinner who needs His mercy, forgiveness, and grace.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
- Seek His guidance and wisdom. When we make our requests known to Him, we must align and submit our will to His.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14
What an amazing God we have who desires a close, intimate relationship with us. The God of the universe, our Creator, loves us and cares about every detail of our life. He makes it possible for us to be known through prayer that honors Him and for Him to be known to us through reading His Word…an incredible privilege for all who belong to Him.
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