A Culture of Prayer
My First Sleepover
“Kyle would you like to pray for our meal?” Talk about a deep question for a 3rd grade kid on his first sleepover at a friend’s house. My friend Chris had invited me to stay the night and attend church the following morning. All in all, it was a great afternoon of pretending to be ninjas, playing Nintendo, and jumping on the trampoline. But when dinnertime came, things started looking a little out of the ordinary to me. It began when Chris’ dad called us into the kitchen for dinner, where I noticed that our families were quite different in how we shared meals together. You see, while my mom and I commonly grabbed our food and made our way into the living room to watch TV, Chris’ family sat down at the table to eat together and talk to each other! Here I was, a 3rd grader who had only seen the “family meal” on TV and rare occasions during the holidays...and then it only got worse for 3rd grader Kyle. After we sat down, I started to eat, but was stopped by Chris’ dad. He explained that before they ate their dinner each night, they took a moment to stop and thank God for their day and for the food. He then asked me if I wanted to pray for the food. So I did what every kid does in the moment and immediately said yes, bowed my head, and sat in silence. But I had no idea where to even begin. In truth, I don’t know if I had ever really prayed before that moment. Eventually I just looked up to find Chris’ dad smiling at me as he graciously asked if I would like him to pray. I gladly accepted the offer. Thinking back, I don’t even remember what Chris' dad said in his prayer, but I now realize that this moment was actually an act of God’s intentional grace in my life.
Prayer as a Grace
Jacob shared in his sermon a couple weeks ago that prayer is, “Our greatest gift on top of our greatest gift”, and his words struck me in a profound way. Meaning because of our greatest gift, the Gospel and a restored relationship with God, we receive another great gift by grace, which is access to the Father through prayer. Because of God’s saving work through the Son, the believer is not only made right with God, but is also granted access to converse with God in a deeply personal way.
This means that prayer is the avenue by which God shows His grace to us in order that we might be distinguished from the world around us, and by which we can project this grace to the world as we go to God in prayer. This is what I believe Chris’ dad was doing for me that night around their table. For while he prayed in thanksgiving for God’s grace, he also - even if unaware – was projecting a picture of God’s grace to me by asking me to pray. He was showing me a small glimpse of what prayer gives us in the Gospel. So as a Gospel culture that is trying to foster a culture of prayer, we must realize not only the grace that prayer is, but the impact that our prayers have on the lives of others.
Why We Don’t Pray
But even with this understanding that prayer is a grace to ourselves and to others, often times we lack in prayer. In general terms, we tend to argue that we do pray. Our meals our blessed, and we always cry out to God in times of trouble and need, but overall I would argue that we are not always a people who exemplify scripture’s call to “pray without ceasing.” So why do we not pray? Here are just a few (of many) reasons I believe we do not pray:
- Perhaps you desire to pray - but maybe you are like my 3rd grade self, sitting at that dinner table and you just don’t know where to start.
- We also don’t pray because we love to project our own sense of strength, and prayer calls us to admit our weaknesses.
- We likewise tend to choose immediate gratification over long obedience to disciplined prayer. Therefore, if it doesn’t work the first time, we revert back to our false sense of strength and refuse to pray continually.
- Ultimately I believe that the primary reason that we do not pray is because deep within us we have believed a lie that it either doesn’t work or it doesn’t really matter.
If we’re honest, many of us could admit that we tend to be very lacking in prayer. This is due to a variety of reasons, but the Bible projects a much different story. Take a moment to think about the many biblical narratives regarding prayer throughout the scriptures. We find prayer as a central theme in Moses’ many conversations with to God in the wilderness, David’s words in the Psalms, the prophets who cried out to God for the fallen people of Israel, Jesus retreating from the crowds to pray and commune with the Father in solitude, the early church praying and seeing God move in mighty ways in the midst of persecution. These narratives from scripture – along with many, many more - teach us that we are to be a people who pray continually. We are to create a culture that receives and projects God’s grace through prayer.
A Culture of Prayer
In light of this, the logical question becomes “what does a culture of prayer look like?” and “how is it countercultural to the world around us?” Here are just a few examples of what a culture of prayer looks like and how it shows itself to be countercultural:
- In a culture of projected strength, prayer reveals the source of true strength.
- In a culture of go and do much, prayer reminds us to rest and be.
- In a culture of idol worship, prayer reorients our hearts on the One who truly deserves our worship.
- In a culture of “I can do this myself,” prayer displays that we can not, but He can.
- In a culture of hiding, prayer reveals our hearts and calls us to grace-driven honesty and confession.
What would it look like if we really began to see prayer as an avenue by which God’s shows His grace to us? How would we think differently about prayer if we believed that it distinguished us from the world and is a way to project the very grace we receive to others?
How might our lives, homes, church, workplaces, and cities change if we really drew near to God in prayer? Again, I believe it could change everything. By God’s grace, may we slow down and begin to look for opportunities to both partake in and share God’s grace through prayer…just like Chris’ dad did with me in the 3rd grade.