And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
My spiritual walk has been shaped largely by my experiences with prayer. Specially the examples I have had in my life of people who have taken prayer and built it into the foundation of their daily lives. More and more I have had prayer on my mind, and heart, over the past two years. As I have thought on it I always remember the women within my family that helped to shape my view on faith. Being Catholic, as I was then, prayer and faith in general was very paradoxical to me. On one hand was the Christian gospel, mired in ritual. And ultimately hollow. We learned the prayers, the posture and hand signals, when to stand and when to kneel. But for me being as young as I was I could not see the point.
But then there were the women in my family for whom faith was a real tangible thing. Who walked in their faith, who prayed consistently day after day. Building it into their daily routine. In spite of wether things were good or bad, in sickness and in health, rain or shine. There is nothing that could hold them back from it. And it is undeniable that their faith has had an impact in their lives, in their character, and in the lives of my family as a whole. I did not understand for several years what it was that so drove them. Until I accepted Christ when I was eight; through a couple of Christian missionaries from Colombia who had moved to our city to preach the gospel. And the contrast was profound. Suddenly it was as if someone had turned on the lights. My mother and I went from a faith based on ritual to experiencing the Spirit in power. And our prayer lives, free of the rituals we had been bound in, began to truly blossom.
I wish I could say that since then I have built a foundation of prayer as I saw in my aunts, grandmothers, and mother. But as much as I have seen, as much as I feel called to, I still struggle with prayer. But, at least I can say I finally have begun to make headway. For me 2016, and in large part 2015, were very difficult years. In which I was tested in ways that nearly broke me. Time and time again. And the main reason why I was able to not only get through them, but also grow in my faith, has been because of prayer. It has not been easy, more and more I believe that it is never going to get easier. Prayer brings us closer to God, and our flesh rejects this. But for me, seeing it as a necessity has helped me to push past the walls that were holding me back. And through it I have grown, felt the Spirit and been guided, and have done things I never would have expected I would do.
So what does it look like to ‘pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests’. For me it looks like integrating prayer into my daily life. In the moments where I would be doing something solely for my own sake. Whenever I feel the Spirit lay something or someone on my heart. More importantly not shying away from it or delegating it to someone else. To not let my mind drift in times of corporate prayer. But continue to pray within myself. To affirm, intercede, give thanks and worship. To set time to listen.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
So what stops us. A lot of things if we are honest. We tend to think of prayer in terms of a wish list. And become disappointed when we dont get what we want. Corporately, to let people see that we need prayer would be to admit we have needs and problems. And our appearances to those around us can be very important to us. We see and hear people who are very eloquent and have a ‘gift’ of prayer and intercession. And as long as they speak we can just listen and be ‘covered’ by their prayer. In my experience, the hardest thing is that God does answer. And shows me the things in my life that I need to address to be able to move forward.
Prayer is not about what we want. Or need. Yes, God wants us to bring those things to him. But it is not about working through a checkist so we can stop being ‘churchy’ and move on to what we really care about. Prayer is communication, to build a relationship with God so that he can help shape us into the people we are meant to be. And to draw closer to Him. It helps to build and edify us. Not just ourselves, but just as importantly, each other. Within leadership in a church it helps to guide us as we move forward.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Too often I have seen, direction be set within lives, ministries and Churches on planning alone. With decisions made without any time really spent seeking guidance from the Spirit. With prayer attached in only in its neat little place at the end. But that’s not the way we are called to live our lives. We are called to walk by the Spirit. But to be able to walk in the Spirit, prayer has to be part of the foundation of our faith.
Spending time in the word, worship, service, prayer and love. None of them can be ignored, none delegated or ignored. To do so only hampers our faith in the long run.