Have you ever stood up too quickly and felt the world begin to spin? Perhaps you feel dizzy if you are standing near the edge of a tall building. Most have experienced what it means to be faint. What then can be more reassuring than having something solid to hold on to – to have something that does not move, even when you think you are spinning out of control; something that is rooted and fixed?
Christ taught His disciples to pray and not to faint. This was to be their way of grasping what was immovable in a shifting world. But this was not a new truth. Isaiah taught the fainting youths of his generation to wait upon the Lord as a cure for fainting. “Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31, ESV).
But how can prayer be what is solid, and the world, as perceived through our senses, be what is shifting? It seems that it should be the other way around. Does modern philosophy not teach that the only things that we can be sure about are the things that we can feel?
Yet, it is true. Prayer lays hold of the only Immovable – it lays hold of God! As the curtain was about to fall on the Old Covenant, and prior to the new wine of the new covenant in Christ’s coming, God assured Malachi that He does not change. “For I the Lord do not change” (Mal 3:6, ESV). This is our hope. It is the rock beneath our feet. It is the strong foundation of our faith. “When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.”
For love to be effective, it must be reciprocated. Relationships can only be built on a two-way street. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us, or we would never know the invisible One. By His grace God has broken through the barrier of our sin and has reconciled us to Himself. Now that we are His, we have the right and privilege to speak to Him. This is the language of prayer. It is the right of the children of God to talk to their Father, and it is the joy of all who are overwhelmed to lay hold on the Eternal. “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Matt 7:7). Throughout the Bible, we are encouraged to ask from God. Whether it be in the example of Abraham, the songs of the Psalmist, the prayers of the prophets, or the teachings of the Lord Jesus, we are encouraged to bring our requests to God. And we are assured that it delights God to answer our prayer, according to His will. “For prayer is request. The essence of request, as distinct from compulsion, is that it may or may not be granted” (C. S. Lewis).
What should I ask for? Everything! God is the source of all that is good for us and the only One who can deliver us from evil. We may think that we can supply the majority of our own life’s needs, and then only the small remaining balance needs the intervention of God, but this treats God as we treat the emergency services. We are comforted that they are there, but we will not dial 911 until things get very bad. Yet every source of our supply finds its way back to the throne of God. We ought to depend upon Him even for our daily bread!
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1Tim 2:1, ESV). It is through the door of prayer that we can begin to move toward others as we ought. Supplication is asking for needs other than our own. This door leads out from our own concerns to the concerns of others. It takes us to the bedside of the sick and to the home of the bereaved. It reaches to the town of the missionary and the cell of the persecuted Christian. This door leads to a world of lost sinners that do not pray for themselves. It touches presidents, prime ministers, senators and governors. It seeks the peace and salvation of all.
“I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psa 34:1). Prayer, then, reaches inward as we ask for our own necessities, and reaches outward as we petition for the needs of others. It also reaches upward. Although it is unlikely to be our first experience of prayer, this is its highest aspect. When we reach upward in our prayers, we begin to communicate to God what we have come to admire in His attributes. This is the definition of true worship. Worship begins with the heart that yields to the revelation of God. That open-hearted encounter with the glory of God overwhelms the soul with wonder. From such wonder, true worship springs. Worship is the response of our whole being to all that God is. It is the pouring out of our souls in the exultation of God.
So, in a drifting world, make prayer your restraining anchor. When you are overwhelmed, find refuge in God. Breathe to Him your cares, even when you cannot put them into words. Know that the very groans of our hearts are made plain to Him by His Spirit Who dwells within. Speak to Him about the needs of others, but above all else, bless the Lord at all times.