Scripture is the first place for us to begin our journey of reflection on this topic of work that is prayer and flows from prayer. Jesus teaches those who follow him about prayer. One can almost understand that Jesus believes that we have, as God's creatures, a need to pray (Luke 18.1). Those who follow Jesus are to pray for others, and pray for those for who are your enemies (Matt 5.44). The Gospel of Luke records Jesus instructing that his followers are to pray for those who abuse you (Luke 6.28). And we are to pray for deliverance (Lk 22.40).
He instructs those who follow him to pray privately (Matt 6). He instructs his followers to pray in desert places (Luke 5.16). We are not to pray out in the open for fear of being like those who lord and show off their prayer in front of others.
Perhaps one of the greatest human sins is the sin of pride. And we like to take pride in our prayers, especially those spoken aloud. This is the beauty of the Book of Common Prayer which keeps our egos out of the work of prayer by praying ancient and holy prayers. It is the beauty of solitude and prayer through meditation, which humbles us before the throne and community of God. We are to seek out deserted places and private places in which we are to have intimate prayer with God.
In these intimate moments we are, as Jesus prescribes in the Gospel of Matthew, to pray out of our faith for what we need of God (Matt 21.22). In Luke's Gospel, Jesus connects fasting and prayer (Luke l5.33). I believe Jesus told us to fast and pray in order to help us understand his sacred solidarity with the poor and our overdependence upon the things of this world. He goes away to pray himself. He goes to the mountain and prays (Matt 19.13). He prays in the garden before he is arrested. And, he invites his followers to pray with him (Matt 26.36). He prayed in his anguish (Lk 22.44). We also know that Jesus prayed the psalms.
Over all, what we see is that Jesus prayed and instructed us to pray for what was needed. He thought it best to pray privately as if in conversation with our Father. If we looked at each of these passages in context we would find that they are connected with action.
Jesus teaches the need of persistent prayer, the widow and unjust judge just before the healing of children in Luke 18. After Jesus teaches prayer for those who abuse you, he heals the beloved slave of the Centurion (Luke 7). Throughout the Gospel of Mark we see repeatedly prayer followed by healings and teachings. Jesus also seems to instruct his disciples that prayer was a daily need for those who followed him, a type of daily spiritual food. Moreover, Jesus seems to understand the importance of prayer in one's life, especially in times of trial or trouble.
Perhaps these themes and passages are not new to you, but they somewhat shape and form my beginning place in this conversation. These are the pieces that got me going and thinking, drawing myself deeper into a conversation with God about Prayer, the work that is prayer, and the work that originates in prayer. Jesus modeled a life of prayer and offers it to us as part of our Christian journey and vocation. Indeed we reflect and acknowledge its centrality in our own commitment to God when we say, "I will with God's help continue in the Apostle's prayers" (BCP 304).
Coming up next: A Daily Prayer Shaping Our Daily Work
- "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
- "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
- "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
- "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
- "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
- "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
- "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
- "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball