Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness”…So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion…” Genesis 1:26a, 27-28a
My beloved seminary professor Dr. Howard Hendricks frequently talked with us about the importance of prayer. “If you are like me,” he would say, “one area of your spiritual life that is constantly shot down in flames is your prayer life.” “Why is that?” he would ask. Quick would come his answer: “It’s because the Evil One always goes right for the jugular! The Devil never wastes time on the periphery. He goes after that which is most vital — prayer!” Hendricks would say that prayer was as essential to our spiritual health as breathing was to our bodies.
A student went to “Prof Hendricks” to ask him for help with prayer. “Dr. Hendricks,” he said, “I’m really struggling with prayer, can you help me?” To which the professor replied: “I have an assignment for you. I want you to go home and to pray for five minutes without asking God for one thing. It can revolutionize your prayer life.” You don’t come into God’s presence focused on your will and what you want. You come focused on God.
We often think of prayer as a way of getting something from God. But more and more we come to see that prayer is really about communion. God created us in His image, according to His likeness, because He longed to have communion with us. He longed to be with us! God is love (1 John 4:8), and love implies communion. In communion we seek not merely to get something from God, but to be in relationship with Him. Our specific prayers of supplication then flow out of our communion with God. If they do not, then prayer becomes a lifeless duty and burden: the shortest, surest route to not praying!
John Vianney was a French parish priest well known for his spiritual counsel and guidance in prayer. He once asked an old peasant farmer why every afternoon he came into the church and sat. The old man replied: “I look at the Good God and the Good God looks at me.” (Christian Spirituality, Lawrence Cunningham and Keith Egan) That is communion! That is prayer!
Timothy Keller writes in his book Prayer: “We can see why a triune God would call us to converse with him, to know and relate to Him. It is because he wants to share the joy he has. Prayer is our way of entering into the happiness of God himself.” Today, how about taking Prof Hendricks’ assignment and spending five minutes talking with God without asking Him for anything. Just spend time in His presence, in communion with Him. It might revolutionize your prayer life!
Grace and peace,