Discipline of Prayer: Always Connected
Every workday, five days a week, I take the light rail into downtown Dallas. Only last week, this routine finally taught me a lesson about prayer.
In case you're not familiar with it a light rail commuter train, it runs on 25,000 volts of alternating current. All of this electricity runs through lines suspended above the tracks. It is transmitted to the train through a spring-loaded arm called a pantograph. Once the energy is on board, it is transformed into the direct current that supplies the locomotive's motors. Without that constant supply of 25,000 volts, the train would go nowhere. That pantograph has to be in constant contact with the high-power lines.
Paul told the Thessalonians, "Pray unceasingly" (1 Thess. 5:17). Part of what that means is that we must continually stay in contact with God, who supplies us with the of spiritual power we need to keep going. In other words, wherever we go and whatever we do, we have to maintain an awareness that we are in the presence of the Almighty.
King David knew of this need. In Ps. 139:7-12, he asks:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
As a spiritual Being, on limited by time and space, God is omnipresent and omniscient. Nothing happens to us that He doesn't know about, nor is there a place we can go that is beyond His presence.
David's descendant, King Hezekiah, demonstrated his awareness of the same truth by his actions. When Sennacherib, king of Assyria, ordered that a threatening letter be read to Hezekiah and all of Jerusalem, 2 Kings 19:14 reports: "Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord." It is as if Hezekiah were saying to the Lord, " Here, read this!" Then, in the verses that follow, he asks the Lord to do something about it, and the Lord honors his request with an outstanding miracle.
It is true that devotional writers have long emphasized the spiritual discipline called "practicing the Presence." Nicholas Herman (c. 1605-1691), also known as "Brother Lawrence," in what is now known as The Practice of the Presence of God, wrote: That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times. That we are as strictly obliged to adhere to God by action in the time of action, as by prayer in its season. That his prayer was nothing else but a sense of the presence of God, his soul being at that time insensible to everything but Divine love: and that when the appointed times of prayer were past, he found no difference, because he still continued with God, praising and blessing Him with all his might, so that he passed his life in continual joy; yet hoped that God would give him somewhat to suffer, when he should grow stronger" ("Fourth Conversation").
Such a concept has not been invented out of thin air. Jesus himself, just before ascending to the Father, promised his disciples, " I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). notice that Jesus neither says, "I was with you," nor does he say "I will be with you." he says, " I am with you always." This " I am" seems to run parallel to his statement to the unbelieving Jews: " I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58), "not I was." If the parallel is a valid one, Jesus' use of the present tense seems to signify that he is not limited by time or any other constraint on his ability to be aware of our needs and to bless. (After this thought occurred to me, I have found the same analysis in A. B. Bruce's commentary on Matthew in The Expositor's Greek Testament.)
Like the power lines strong above the light rail train, the power is always present and available. But we must make and maintain our connection with that power. With a constant awareness of God's presence, we will include him in every decision we make. We will give more care to where we go, what we do, and what we listen to, knowing that he goes with us, witnesses our actions, and hears what we hear. we will choose our words more carefully-not only the ones that express our petitions to him, but all of our words--realizing that we can not prevent him from listening to us.
And whenever we do pray, whether we offer praise, thanksgiving, petitions, confessions of Sin, or intercessions for others, a constant awareness of God's presence bolsters our confidence that he hears our prayers and will answer them according to his will. Don't let your pantograph droop. Oil its hinges, fix its spring. Stay connected.
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Copyright ©2005 Steve Singleton, All rights reserved.
Steve Singleton has written and edited several books and numerous articles on subjects of interest to Bible students. He has been a book editor, newspaper reporter, news editor, and public relations consultant. He has taught Greek, Bible, and religious studies courses Bible college, university, and adult education programs. He has taught seminars and workshops in 11 states and the Caribbean.
Go to his DeeperStudy.org for Bible study resources, no matter what your level of expertise. Explore "The Shallows," plumb "The Depths," or use the well-organized "Study Links" for original sources in English translation. Sign up for Steve's free "DeeperStudy Newsletter."
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