Prayer is the verbal or mental communication with deity. We may ask for things, seek help for others, give thanks, or give praise. These words are sometimes accompanied by actions, but they are meant to be communication. They are an essential element of relationship.
Some prayers are formal or liturgical. Others are spontaneous and are just speaking you heart or mind. They may be set to music, or presented as measured mental ideas. But they need to communicate in a positive manner. Sometimes we are rotten in the way we communicate. I know I can be bad at it. I wish I was always dynamically engaging with the ones I speak and share with. But at times, especially when weary or when the mind is engaged in other pursuits, the engagement (and thus relationship) is not as pure or rich as it should be.
Let me here apologise to all I have ever failed to give my full attention, or with whom I have held back my heart. Such times are rare, but still points of pain and shame for me. I also need to address to God, for my prayers so very often ramble, or fall into catch phrases and cliches. Lord, help me to really love You (and communicate with You) with all my heart, mind and soul.
It seems the early disciples were not exempt from this either. In Acts 12 we find Peter bound in prison. He is on the eve of his execution, and the people of God have gathered to pray. we must in context presume that among the things petitioned for, is Peter’s deliverance. The result is an angelic visit to Peter’s cell, and a miraculous escape. it is what happens next that is telling, however.
“Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.” When this had dawned on him, he went to the house of Mary the mother of John, also called Mark, where many people had gathered and were praying. Peter knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, “Peter is at the door!” “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.” But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Peter motioned with his hand for them to be quiet and described how the Lord had brought him out of prison. “Tell James and the other brothers and sisters about this,” he said, and then he left for another place (Acts 12:11-17).”
Peter goes to the place where the church is praying. He knocks and is refused entry, because he can’t possibly be there. “He is in jail, that’s what we are praying about.” There seems to be no recognition that the things they are asking God for may happen. Are we that way? Do we go through the motions without the firm expectation that he is faithful in granting what we as for? Or do we say the right words without a firm focus on what we are actually saying?
Do we pray or just seem to? Just think what we will accomplish if we move beyond the semblance of prayer.