Prayer is a personal learning experience that becomes the art of living. I learned mine from my mother and grandmother. It has served me over eighty-four years. During that time, I have been exposed to painters, poets and writers that have turned prayer into an art. As a pastor, I did practice the art and felt myself wanting. In my public prayers, I was telling the all-knowing Lord what He should be about; when in reality, it was about what I should be about. Since my retirement from the pastorate, I feel more at home with the short form Jesus taught His disciples. Jesus, Himself, urged all men to pray and Jesus revealed very little what they should pray about. We shall mention some of the things while we travel together and I try to retrace my journey.
Prayer goes hand in hand with our desire, our needs, our wants and wishes. It grows out of our aspirations, our circumstances, our experience, our predicaments and a host of things we encounter. No one lives without prayer; regardless, of what one believes. We need and expect things and therefore hope, and we even believe that we can ourselves, or someone else shall assist us, in answering our prayers. Ultimately, we do answer each others' prayers out of human compassion and decency. We may have to do a little begging, seeking and knocking before persistence pays off; for, human beings are not heartless, even the godless (Lk. 11:1-13).
We live in a fallen and sinful world. It is made up of matter and matter deteriorates. Let me repeat what I wrote in my Preamble. The cosmos is aging and fallen beings and spirits are also managing it. Man is not the only one that fell out of grace, so did the devil and his angels. He and his companions landed on earth and have created havoc ever since. They sow the weeds, shake the mountains, disturb the seas, destroy the landscapes and blame the Creator for their evil handiwork. They have convinced the creature man that God is punishing man for disobeying God. God is good and merciful and is not willing that anyone should perish (II Pe. 3:9). Man without God and without Christ is prone to become a child of the devil and do his kind of destructive work (Jn. 8:31-47). Nature has already become the devil’s tool and so have many human beings.
God’s plan to redeem the world began with the coming of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God. “For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (Jn. 3:17). Paul had this insight, “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to the frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjects it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in pains of childbearing right up to the present time” (Ro. 8:19-22).
Paul and Peter believed that the Scriptures were a dictation of the Spirit of God (II Tim. 3:16; II Pe. 1:20-21), and Jesus admitted that they did not make sense to those that reason (Mt. 11:25); yet, they proceeded from the mouth of God (Mt. 4:4). God, The “I Am,” is eternal Spirit and Breath and so is the human soul (Ex. 4:14; Jn. 4:24). The Scriptures do say that God shaped man out of the earth and then “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being or soul” (Gen. 2:7). “It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are of the Spirit and they are life,” so stated Jesus. What we have is a migration of life or the soul or the spirit from God to a piece of clay, we call a man. Upon death, life or the soul or the spirit migrates from this earthly housing to a heavenly dwelling (II Cor. 5:1-2), where there is no death; but, there is a division between those that did what was right and those that did wrong (Ro. 2:5-11). Hence there are two worlds, heaven and hell (Lk. 16:19-31).
The Promises of God, how do they affect the future? There was a definite change with the arrival of Jesus. He became the future. A new age began with him and in him. It was Jesus who declared: “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John” (Mt. 11:13). And, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mt. 5:17). Jesus’ Coming marked three major changes. The first and most important one was that man had a direct access to God in Christ. One no longer had to seek out a priest, go to a Temple or climb a Mountain to worship God (Jn. 4:21-24). The other was that God through Christ began to bring in a new order or kingdom that was not of this world (Mk. 1:15; Jn. 18:26). Jesus shifted the responsibility from a group or a nation to the individual. The reign of God began in man and not in a system or a religion (Lk. 17:20-21).