All These Were Constantly Devoting Themselves to Prayer
By Jody Slaughter
What is your experience with prayer? The members of the early church “were constantly devoting themselves to prayer” Acts 1:14. Prayer was central for early Christians. Is prayer central in your life? In the Life with God Bible, prayer is defined as, “an interactive conversation with God about what we and God are thinking and doing together”. Henri Nouwen, in his book, Reaching Out, states that “prayer is the language of the Christian community…not one of the many things the community does, rather, it is its very being.” Our interactive conversations with God can be a part of who we are each and every day, instead of an activity we do.
I experienced the Christian community in prayer in a profound way at the young age of 10 years old. I became ill with Reye’s syndrome. My pastor and his wife were at the hospital with my parents when they received the news that they would know in three days whether I would live or die. A prayer vigil was organized at our church for that night. On the third day I did awake from a coma and began to recover. While I was recovering my mom told me about the many people praying for me. This was a powerful testimony to me, even at such an early age and through this life-changing experience I became closer to God. I remember feeling very thankful for the prayers, but more than anything I was grateful for others to have their relationship with God strengthened. I even remember telling my mom that it was all worth it if this miracle allowed people to become closer to God. Even as recent as last year, I heard a long-time friend recalling this experience and they still recount how powerful and faith-forming this prayer vigil was.
Whenever I hear others share about their prayer experiences it always strengthens my own faith. A lot of what I learned about prayer has come through times of crisis, either in my life or in the life of someone else. One important aspect of prayer is that prayer is much more than giving God a wish list. Prayer is about experiencing the transforming power of God through daily communion.
Though we face the unknown in our prayers, we can know for certain that change comes for the one in prayer. When I was in the hospital at age 10, change came for my Dad as he prayed fervently for my recovery. While praying for my healing, his prayer changed to releasing me to God. He describes how a great sense of peace came over him because of God’s presence. It was after that prayer of release my Dad went to my room to learn that I had just wakened from the coma. What a powerful testimony that was for me to learn years later about releasing things into God’s hands. Even before my dad knew I would recover, he knew the powerful peace of God. Richard Foster writes about this type of prayer in his book, Prayer. He says this is the prayer of surrender that Jesus prayed in the garden, “not my will but thine be done.”
It reminds me of Habakkuk’s prayer in chapter 3:17-19. “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails, and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold, and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, and makes me walk upon the high places.” Earlier in the book we see how Habakkuk questions God about why a just God would allow evil. As he continues in a dialogue with God he comes to a place of acceptance about the difficulties, and in that moment, he was able to proclaim God’s strength for him in the midst of the hardship.
God is present with us when we pray. We find great comfort in Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:20 which says, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” When God is present, transformation happens. Paul prays for the church in Ephesians 3:16, “that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit.” We can seek God more fervently if we trust in the transformation that can happen. God does desire we bring our concerns to him. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” Our prayer experiences can be more than giving God a list of concerns. Praying is also a way of blessing God. Revelation 5:8 gives us the picture that “each held a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints”. Let us pray with expectancy in God’s presence and power.
Jody Slaughter is the Spiritual Care Associate at Prince of Peace.