Mark 1:35: “In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.”
For Christ-followers, prayer is both gift and obligation. How can we pray better in light of these simultaneous, contradictory motivations? When we look at how Scripture records Jesus’ prayer pattern, we see that he prayed 1) before important events and decisions, 2) after significant achievements, 3) during unusual busyness, and 4) whenever needs overwhelmed. In other words, his words and actions were merely the needlepoint design threaded through the warp and woof of his prayer life. Prayer provided the sturdy canvas for everything else and allowed the world to see clearly the design he intended. His faithful communication with the Father bestowed confidence in decisions and actions, ongoing fruit from achievements, strength and guidance for navigating circumstances, and provision for demands beyond human ability.
Thrasher writes, “No one ever just decides to be a man or woman of prayer. God awakens people through their sense of needs” (117). How true I find that statement. We habitually rely on our own or others’ human resources until we recognize a deficiency—and some of us (me) regularly take longer than others to reach this point. As I read this chapter, God gently prodded me to fall on my knees.
Facing relocation to Kansas in coming months along with shoulder surgery and my standard motherhood and PhD work, I am experiencing a time of decisions, achievements, busyness, and needs. How I wish my prayer discipline matched my desire for God’s resources! I find myself wallowing in emotional fogs and mud pits of self-pity. This behavior might suit a hoary porker headed for the slaughterhouse, but not a child of the King. Not a child whose father has promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Josh 1:5 NIV), “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28–29 NAS95), and “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (6:34).
As Peter preached, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26–27 NIV, my emphasis).
Am I overwhelmed by tasks? Pray for priorities and stamina. Am I anxious about finding a house? Pray for God to prepare a place for us where he can use us to his glory. Am I peevish about what I must release from my tight fist? Pray that God will remind me of his purpose and that he directs my steps. Pray that I will seek my father. For I know if I will seek, I will find.
God commands me to pray so that I will know he superintends the outcome, not me. In the process, I receive his assurance, his mercy, his perspective, and his power.
Do the threads sewn each day by your words and actions create a clear picture of the God of the universe working on your behalf? If not, perhaps your foundation fabric needs strengthening and straightening. Do you pray before decisions, after achievements, during times of busyness, and whenever you see a need? This prayer discipline prevents broken or skewed threads that result from gaps in the warp or uneven tension in the woof. It recognizes that “‘in him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:28a).
Thrasher recommends that we “write down the four patterns of prayer in Jesus’ life, and ask the Lord what application and guidance it gives.” Have you done this yet? In what times do you avoid seeking the Lord? Seek his face and receive the gift.
Psalm 10:17: “O LORD, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear” (NAS95).