The Main Business of Life

Prayer catapults us onto the frontier of the spiritual life.  Of all the Spiritual Disciplines prayer is the most central because it ushers us into perpetual communion with the Father.  Meditation introduces us to the inner life, fasting is an accompanying means, study transforms our minds, but it is the Discipline of prayer that brings us into the deepest and highest work of the human spirit.  Real prayer is life creating and life changing.  “Prayer—secret, fervent, believing prayer—lies at the root of all personal godliness,” writes William Carey.            

To pray is to change.  Prayer is the central avenue God uses to transform us.  If we are unwilling to change, we will abandon prayer as a noticeable characteristic of our lives.  The closer we come to the heartbeat of God the more we see our need and the more we desire to be conformed to Christ.  William Blake tells us that our task in life is to learn to bear God’s “beams of love.”  How often we fashion cloaks of evasion—beam-proof shelters—in order to elude our Eternal Lover.  But when we pray God slowly and graciously reveals to us our evasive actions and sets us free form them.             

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions”  (James 4:3).  To ask “rightly” involves transformed passions.   In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after him:  to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills.  Progressively, we are taught to see things from his point of view.             

All who have walked with God have viewed prayer as the main business of their lives.  The words of the gospel of Mark, “And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed,” stand as a commentary on the life-style of Jesus (Mark 1:35).  David’s desire for God broke the self-indulgent chains of sleep:  “Early will I seek Thee”(Ps. 63:1).  When the apostles were tempted to invest their energies in other important and necessary tasks, they determined to give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).  Martin Luther declares, “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”  He held it as a spiritual axiom that “He that has prayed well has studied well.”  John Wesley says, “God does nothing but in answer to prayer,” and backed up his conviction by devoting two hours daily to that sacred exercise. -Richard Foster

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