Today's Reading – Luke 6:12-38 – Prayer
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Read in New Testament Greek
Luke tells us that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places to pray (Luke 5:16). Today we read of him going out to a mountainside to spend the whole night in prayer before choosing the twelve who would become the apostles – those who would share in his mission (6:12). Jesus was a man of prayer. Prayer was important to him: it was communion with his Father; by it he sought wisdom for the decisions he was to make; through it he gained strength for the ministry the Father had given him.
I suspect that I am not alone when I say that I find prayer difficult – particularly prayer on my own. I don't find it difficult to pray with others, but when I am on my own my mind seems to go blank or to wander down a thousand different side-tracks. A quick 'arrow prayer' for this or that person or situation is simple enough, but I find it difficult to focus for any extended period upon the business of just talking with God. The idea of spending a whole night alone in prayer seems quite terrifying.
And yet, if prayer was so very important to Jesus it surely cannot be less needful for us. We also need wisdom for the decisions of the day. We also need strength for the ministry that the Father has for us to do. We need the presence and power of the Spirit within us to live as Jesus calls us to live: to love those who treat us badly; to be generous to those in need; to avoid a critical spirit; to be merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful. And then there are friends and family who need our prayers and a broken world crying out for the healing touch of the Lord Jesus. There is so much need for prayer; why do we find it so difficult?
Prayer cannot be separated from the ordinary business of our daily lives. We find it difficult to pray because we live so much of our life without conscious thought of God. Then, when we withdraw to pray, prayer seems so artificial; our thoughts and words are stilted. We need to learn to live consciously in the presence of God in all that we do – to practice the presence of God – then extended times of prayer will seem natural and easy rather than strange and artificial.
You may also find a journal or prayer diary helpful. The day will bring many blessings for which you can offer thanks and praise; do so as they arise but note them down for continuing praise and thanksgiving. Each day will bring to your attention many matters for prayer. You may be asked to pray for someone; pray for them at that moment, but also note it down for later petition. Many things you hear about during the day, including items on the news, will touch your heart; pray for them as you hear of them, but also note them down to bring before the Lord. Each day is packed with reasons for praise and prayer.
But we need also to learn to be still before God. Prayer does not require a torrent of words. It’s not about making sure God knows what’s going on; there is nothing we can tell him that he does not know already. Moreover, the deepest prayers well up from the Spirit of God within us; he sets us praying and joins our hearts to his own.
Lord Jesus, teach me to live close to you and to follow you in all things. Teach me to pray.
Father, I abandon myself
into your hands.
Do with me what you will,
whatever you do, I will thank you,
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
as in all your creatures,
and I'll ask nothing else, my Lord.
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
I give it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands
with a trust beyond all measure,
because you are my Father. (Charles de Foucauld)