By Vinita, based on Praying the Way Jesus Prayed
There is no great secret to prayer, and no one method that will make all the difference. Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray; maybe they thought he had the secret. It was common for teachers to pass on to their students specific prayers, so this was not an unusual request. Jesus taught them what came to be called the Lord’s Prayer, or the Our Father.
But probably the greatest prayer lesson Jesus gave his disciples was his own example. They saw him go off alone, regularly, to pray. They witnessed him praying with just the small group of them and also heard him pray before the crowds. They experienced Jesus praying, day after day. If there was any secret, that was it: make a habit of talking to the heavenly Father.
Mark Link sets out the simple facts of Jesus’ prayer life. He prayed at various times, in various postures, and with various words. Sometimes his prayer was composed on the spot, to fit the situation. Other times—including when he was dying on the cross—Jesus drew from his Jewish upbringing and quoted a psalm as prayer.
Jesus also spent time alone, where he could be free of noise and busyness to be more attentive to what God was whispering in his heart. This kind of prayer—in solitude and quiet—is for many of us the most difficult. When we quiet down for awhile, whatever is simmering inside us has time to bubble into consciousness. During such prayer we encounter our truest emotions, our various forms of resistance, our unanswered questions, and our stubborn ego. In other words, we must face ourselves, and this can get in the way of our conversation with God—until we learn to offer God whatever is bubbling up. Then, rather than guilt we experience God’s accepting love and forgiveness. Instead of only anger or fear we are able to sense God’s comfort as well.
Lately I’ve had discussions with other people about this habit of spending time alone with God. For each of us it was the same situation: we look forward to our time of prayer, but then when it comes time to pray, so many things get in the way. How frustrating—we want to pray, but then there’s a fight when we try to do it.
We need to consider that there is more at work here than our own resistance. There truly is an enemy of our souls, who does not want us to experience forgiveness, or comfort, or any sense of God’s presence. So it’s not surprising that, even though we look forward to time alone with God, it turns out to be such a battlefield.
Jesus knew this better than anyone, I’m sure. What must it have been like to spend forty days in the wilderness, trying to pray, with the tempter dogging his every step?
Where do you pray? When do you pray? What posture(s) do you use in prayer? What do you find most difficult about prayer in solitude?
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