by Nakkolackal V. L. Eapen, Austin, TX
Continued from Part 1
Prayer as seen by David in Psalms
In Psalm 19:14 King David defines his 'prayer', with crystal clarity, as consisting of 'the words of his mouth' and 'the meditation of his heart thereon'. As a person after God's own heart, David supplicates that both the components of his prayer be "acceptable" in God's sight. The words of his mouth are NOT of his OWN arbitrary choice. The Holy Spirit leads him, and guides him to use the choicest or the most appropriate words. Unless the meaning of those words is contemplatively meditated upon in his heart, 'the words of his mouth', by themselves, will not be acceptable prayer in God's sight.
This principle is of unique relevance to us, since we often RUSH THROUGH RECITATION OF PRAYERS IN GREAT HASTE, as if it were A RACE AGAINST TIME, without ever contemplating their meaning in our hearts. Our prayers are then like rainless clouds, and they are unacceptable in God's sight.
Importance of How We Pray - Contemplation vs. Mechanical Recitation
The fact of the matter is that FAST PRAYERS do not even reach the Throne of Grace to be deemed acceptable or unacceptable in God's sight. A typical example is the prayer, 'Anugrahangal Niranjirikkunnavane', said IN A DESPERATE HURRY in 24 to 29 seconds during Dhoopa Prarthana, conducted in a ritualistic manner after the conclusion of Holy Qurbana. It is important to bear in mind that 'CHOLUTHU' or mechanical recitation of prayers does not please God the Father, but provokes Him and irritates Him. Recitation has to be orderly, slow, steady and graceful in order to be meditative and meaningfully reverential.
God the Father is Holy, first and last. There is none among us that does good; no, not one. What makes us stand in His holy presence is the shed blood of the Lamb of God. We come into His holy presence with singing, praising and thanksgiving, NOT ON OUR OWN MERIT, but only in and through the Son's precious name. That is why we are admonished in Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God." In serene stillness, the awareness of our being in His holy presence dawns on us, and it enables us to invoke the Holy Spirit to help us pray, as we should, properly.
Prayer is a One to One Communication with the Holy Trinity
Prayer is a one-to-ONE intimate conversation with God the Father, in the name of God the Son, monitored by God the Spirit. Barriers to prayer are many and varied - e.g. unconfessed sin, unforgiveness and vindictiveness, grieving God the Spirit and the likes. Elimination of these barriers is possible only by divine grace through the Sacrament of Holy Confession and Communion.
The ultimate goal is to be as perfect as the Heavenly Father, for which we need to seek FIRST His kingdom and His righteousness, and emulate the examples shown by the Lord, His Apostles and His saints. "No good thing does the LORD withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)
Pouring out Our Heart in Prayer
'Pouring out one's heart before God is prayer.' That is the Davidic view expressed in Psalm 62:8.
"Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us." Psalm 62:8
Though conceptually sublime, it is quite a NARROW view of prayer, applicable ONLY to a select few believers of high spiritual caliber. David himself was such a believer. Acts 13:22 testifies to it. "I have found in David, the son of Jesse, a man after My heart who will do all My will." Modern believers do not generally fit into that category. Their faith in God being skin-deep, they cannot be expected to POUR OUT THEIR HEART before God in prayer.
All the same, there could be a FEW believers here and there, but NOT everywhere, who may pour out their heart before God the Father IN PRAYER through God the Son. They are able to do that, because they have the GRACE to see in God the Son, a 'FRIEND Who sticks closer than a brother'. Blessed indeed are they, as otherwise, it will be impossible for them to cultivate such intense intimacy with God the Son.
'Pouring out the heart before God' is seen AT ITS VERY BEST in Hannah's self-effacing passionate prayer, at the door-post of the Temple of the LORD, briefly narrated in 1 Sam. 1:10-16. Her poignant words in reply to Eli the priest are fascinating: "I am a woman sorely troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been POURING OUT MY SOUL BEFORE THE LORD. Do not regard your maidservant as a base woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation." Blessed be her memory forever and ever.
What singles out Hannah's touching prayer as 'out of the ordinary' is NOT her eloquence, but her burning conviction that in God is the answer to her medically incurable barrenness. Her trust in God has NO bounds. She is, therefore, not ashamed to weep bitterly before the LORD, Who graciously grants her plea in good time. The intensity of her faith is such that she pours out her heart before God with effortless ease.
If it were possible to have personal ties of friendship with a State Governor, lukewarm believers wouldn't mind queuing up to wait for days and nights at a stretch before the Governor's mansion, with determination of purpose, to make their dream come true. It is the believers' scale of priorities that determines their personal preferences.
Unless drawn by God the Father, no believer can ever turn to God the Son, in spiritual hunger and thirst, for being eternally blessed.
Vicarious Prayer - Praying for Others
The disposition to bless others in prayer is a God-given spiritual gift. Believers cannot have this gift unless they persistently CLAIM it in prayer, and RECEIVE it in faith. As James, our Lord's brother, puts it: "You do not have, because you do not ask." Blessing others habitually in prayer is crucial to a victorious abundant life in Christ Jesus. Just as one who waters will oneself be watered, one who blesses others in prayer will oneself be blessed. Psalm 109:17 bears out this truth very clearly. "He loved to curse; let curses come on him! He did not like blessing; may it be far from him!"
When we invoke God's blessings on others in Jesus' name, our prayer is called 'vicarious prayer'. Vicarious prayer may be said in privacy at home or elsewhere. The effectiveness of vicarious prayer depends on two factors:
(i) Visualization and
Visualization means seeing with the heart's eyes the face(s) of those we are praying for, and the heavenly outpouring of desired blessings on them. On the other hand, empathizing is identifying ourselves with those being prayed for and with their plight.
Vicarious prayer on behalf of the children and the youth of our Church is to empower them to fulfill God's plan and purpose for their lives. Likewise, vicarious prayer is also to be said for ALL parents in our Church, and especially for those in distress, and in need of comfort, healing or employment.
Anticipating the present age we live in, Jesus affirms: "And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold." (Mt. 24:12) Further, He forebodingly points to the present generation as follows: "Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on earth?" (Lk. 18:8) St. Paul elaborates on it by adding that men will be "lovers of self, lovers of money," ... ... and "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God," while holding the form of religion, but denying its power. (2 Tim. 3:2-5) In such a LOVELESS AND FAITHLESS AGE, prayer can ONLY be about oneself, one's spouse and children and the nearest of one's kith and kin. But a Church of 'ONE ACCORD' cannot evolve from such self-centered prayers. 'One accord' is the offshoot of BIFOCAL prayer that invokes blessings not only ON SELF, but also ON ALL OTHERS in the Church collectively.
I CONCLUDE with the sincere prayer, may the Compassionate Lord's consolations cheer our souls when the cares of our hearts are many.
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