Prayer is one of the great disciplines of the Christian faith. In my view, it is as vital to our faith experience as anything else we do. It is the spiritual air that the breath and the living water that quenches the deeper thirsts of our souls. It is that which sustains us, heals us, and allows us to sometimes see the world with the perspective of the Father. It is that connecting point that reminds us over and over again that we are forever joined to something greater than ourselves… we are joined to the Creator God of the universe and that alone should make the discipline thrilling and awe inspiring.
I don’t know when it first happened… maybe in college… but there was a moment in my own experience when the verbs I used to talk about prayer began to shift. I went from an attitude that said, “I have to pray about so-and-so,” to a conviction that said, “I get to pray about so-and-so.” See the difference? It’s when your discipline goes from being an arduous task to a welcomed conversation. I honestly think what brings that transitional moment is when you not only witness with certainty the answer to some of your heartfelt prayers, but when you begin to sense the change in your own life that prayer causes. When you begin to find a peace that once eluded you, a calm that once escaped you, a perspective that once was foreign to you, then you will know that prayer is something different… something powerful, wonderful, scary, mystical, mysterious, and life-changing. Maybe it’s just spiritual maturity when you finally realize that God is real and faith is important.
I don’t pretend to know all the answers to the questions that people have about prayer. In fact, I probably understand even less as I grow older. There is such mystery to it all. I can’t tell you why some prayers are miraculously answered while others seem to never gain a response. I can’t tell you why it is important to bring concerns to God, knowing that He knows our needs long before we ask. I can’t explain why the Spirit sometimes prompts us to pray for people that we haven’t thought about in a million years. I can’t tell you even the right formula to use that will match the problems you are facing. In fact, I had a friend ask me the other day how to pray about a certain problem she was experiencing. I gave her my best theological answer based on my seminary degrees and 32 years of pastoral experience but deep inside I wondered if my answer made any sense at all… to her or to me.
I take such great comfort in Romans 8:26, (Commit this to memory) “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” I am encouraged as I pray to know that even when I lack the words to use, or the wisdom to frame my thoughts, that God’s Spirit in my life is communicating clearly, exactly, and perfectly with the Father. There is no wrong way to pray. And so, I press on… I pray, not because I think those on my list will suffer if I don’t, but because I feel called to do so. It is a privilege and not an obligation. It sustains my life. It is a ministry that all of us as believers are called to undertake.
Yesterday was one of those days. It was one of those days when the Spirit prompted me to pray for a friend I know who is really struggling. She’s not someone that I see very often. We live in different cities. I’m not even sure I can recall her last name as I write these words. I just know that suddenly I was prompted to pray for her and I did. I never know what’s happening in those moments… what “needs” are present and why sometimes out of the clear-blue-sky a name races to the forefront of our minds. I just know that when the Lord brings someone to my mind in such a powerful way that I am supposed to drop everything for a moment and offer my petition.
Please don’t interpret these words as me trying to reveal to you how pious I’ve become. I’m not looking to get a spiritual pat-on-the-back for my devotion to prayer. It’s just the ministry to which I am called each day and I hope that I am faithful to that calling. And not to worry, whenever the Lord brings you to mind, I will take a moment to mention your needs to our Father.
-Dr. Jon R Roebuck, Executive Director