This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled Extreme Devotion, compiled by the Voice Of the Martyrs. In the following passage, the account of a young Communist Chinese man provides us with fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You. (Psalm 32:6)
This interesting letter was smuggled out of Communist China:
"I am a teenager and a soldier in the Red Guard. I did not believe in any God, in any heaven, in any hell, in any Savior, in anything at all. One day I accidentally tuned into your transmission on the radio. At first, I was tempted to turn it off. Good Communists do not believe in God. But I found the program interesting, so I tuned in again and again. Now I believe in Christ. But I have two questions."
"The first one: Does God accept anybody from Communist China? In your broadcast you speak about the church, but I am in China where we have almost no churches. Can God accept somebody without a church?"
This young soldier did not know how many unofficial churches existed in China or that all those who love Christ are the church. Then he asked his second question: "Would you please teach me to pray? You start every radio program with a prayer and you end with a prayer. I would like to pray, but I don't know how."
The soldier had never been in a church, but he said that he imagined prayer meant, "to speak the whole day so that after everything you say, you might be able to add 'Amen.'"
What a beautiful definition of prayer.
FURTHER: Prayer is not natural. In fact, it doesn't come to anyone naturally because it is a supernatural experience. God gives us a spiritual desire to communicate with Him. Like mathematics or language, prayer is a learned skill. The more we practice prayer, the more natural it becomes. The young believer in this story defined prayer as affecting every aspect of life and, thus, making one's whole life a prayer to God. How are you growing in your own experience with prayer? Are you out of practice? Starting today, ask God to give you a supernatural desire to speak with Him and make prayer a natural part of every day. Then start practicing. May your life be a prayer.
A moment of consideration: As someone once said, "prayer is, as prayer does". While the gist of the sentence might be said for many things, the apostle, Paul, in his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, exhorted his readers to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thessalonians 5:17). In our silent moments apart from the world, in our walking the busy sidewalks of life, in our playing with our children, in our church services, in our study, in our community activities, in our family gatherings, and more, we find the environments in which we work out our faith. In our "working out" of our faith in the One Who Himself is faithful, we are best equipped if communication lines with our Father are kept open.
Prayer is a personal thing. Many books have been written, containing written prayers for many different reasons. But our prayer is not to be a rote, repetitious or lifeless exercise, but a vital dialogue with the Life Giver. The Life Application Bible (LAB) Notes report that,
"We cannot spend all our time on our knees, but it is possible to have a prayerful attitude at all times. This attitude is built upon acknowledging our dependence on God, realizing his presence within us, and determining to obey him fully. Then we will find it natural to pray frequent, spontaneous, short prayers. A prayerful attitude is not a substitute for regular times of prayer but should be an outgrowth of those times. In Luke 18:1, Christ Himself urged His followers to always pray, and not lose heart. To persist in prayer and not give up does not mean endless repetition or painfully long prayer sessions. Constant prayer means keeping our brief requests continually before God as we live for him day by day, believing he will answer. When we live by faith, we are not to give up. God may delay answering, but His delays always have good reasons. As we persist in prayer, we grow in character, faith, and hope.
Andrew Murray, in his book, With Christ in the School of Prayer, has affirmed,
"...to the faith that knows it gets what it asks, prayer is not a work or a burden, but a joy and a triumph; it becomes a necessity and a second nature." Oh, that soulful conversation with our Father might become as necessary as breathing and a second nature to each of us.
Faith, knowing that it gets what it asks, is reflected in Paul’s assuredness, "And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him." (1 John 5:14-15)
As E.M. Bounds reflected,
"What a beautiful conception of prayer we get if we regard it as a constant fellowship, an unbroken audience with the King. Prayer then loses every vestige of dread which it may once have possessed; we regard it no longer as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege which is to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty." (E.M. Bounds, The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer: Experience the Wonders of God through Prayer; Book 5, Section 7, Page 386: "Pray Always")
We have witnesses abounding, who testify to the sweetness of prayer. Many beleaguered Christians around the world report how important prayer is, and can affirm the sweet joy of answered prayer. Some prayers are breathed in everyday life, in activities which fill our days. For example, Victor Hugo shared his inspiration that "Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees." Whatever we may be doing, then, our souls may resolutely commune in prayer with the Almighty One. We live in the attitude of prayer, knowing that God hears and answers. Living a life of prayer is part and parcel of offering unceasing prayer.
To pray unceasingly is to remember those who we pray for. The apostle Paul, for example, wrote to his mission churches, telling of his commitment to them, "And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding..." (Colossians 1:9) We too may move throughout the day, speaking and even doing that which might worthily be followed by an "Amen." Practicing God's presence brings His blessings upon us moment by moment throughout the day; conversing with Him during this time together adds joy to life and praise to our lips. Martin Luther suggested that lengthy, drawn-out prayers aren't helpful; he averred that "The fewer words, the better prayer." Converse; listen, absorb, and apply what God conveys to you. As we pray, we intercede for others, bringing them to God when perhaps they find they cannot focus on Him because of tumult in their lives. We listen to God's Word, and to His infinite compassion for His own and for the perishing. We praise God for Who He is; we glorify Him and seek His glory in what we do, in the words we speak, and in the prayers we pray.
Let us so live each day within the brightness of God's glory, enjoying His presence and conversing (spoken or unspoken) with Him as we glorify Him and live to do His will, and to each person we meet let us reflect the Lord’s honor and splendor. May the Father’s presence strengthen us to persevere in these troubling times. Oh, that our whole lives would be prayers to God--speaking and living the whole day so that after everything we say and do, we might be able to add 'Amen.'