Some Thoughts on Prayer

Perhaps one of the most helpful ways that I have found to think about the place of prayer in our lives is by comparing it to the place of punctuation in an essay. Prayer and worship direct and channel the flow of our lives and order them into larger meaningful patterns. For myself, I know that without prayer and worship my life would easily become a meaningless stream of consciousness.

Praying at the start of the day is like starting a new paragraph. Praying briefly at regular periods of the day is like starting sentences with capital letters and closing them with full stops. Prayers over meals and at moments of need and thankfulness are like commas, colons and semicolons, giving rhythm, balance and significance to all of the actions that they bracket.

There are also larger ordering patterns in our lives. Sunday worship closes one week and opens into a new one. It gathers the events of the last week in the offertory and commissions us to go out into the new week. It cleans the slate as we are forgiven by God, enabling us to escape the bondage of the past and reasserting the promise of the future. We participate in actions of remembrance and hopeful anticipation that reset our bearings in time. It is like the heartbeat or breathing of the Church.

There is also the Church year. The Church year is similar to various movements in a piece of music, spread out over an even longer period of time. They help us to begin to think and operate in terms of larger time spans, making us more stable people. The change of key at certain times of the year (such as the season of Lent) can be helpful in many ways.

On another front: All of our hunger as human beings is ultimately a hunger for God. What we are really hungry for is ultimately life, which can only be found in God Himself. All human hunger is a differentiated expression of our hunger for the one true God. When we are hungry for food we are looking for something more than biological sustenance. We are seeking life. Our hunger for God is not something that exists in addition to or outside of our hunger for food, love, truth, beauty, friendship, justice, touch, taste and the like. We are hungering for God in these others hungers.

For this reason, our evangelism must be holistic in character, addressing the hunger of the whole person. If we are seeking to address people’s hunger for God we need to model a form of life in which this hunger is seen to be met, within the way that we eat, physically interact, dress, speak, relate and the like. We need to help people to see the truth that their hunger for life is really a hunger for God that has become misdirected by sin.

Evangelism must be a matter of inviting people to share in a fellowship of life. This life is the life of Christ that has been given to us. We open up this life, which encompasses the whole of our beings, to those around us (1 John 1).

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
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3 Responses to Some Thoughts on Prayer

  1. Barb says:

    Good thoughts Alastair. I’ll remember your prayer like punctuation metaphor.

  2. Pingback: alastair.adversaria » Happy New Year!

  3. Pingback: Ten Years of Blogging: 2005-2006 | Alastair's Adversaria

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