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Friday, August 10, 2007

A Time And A Place For Prayer

"Every time and every place is a time and place for prayer."

Catherine of Sienna quoted in Listening to God by Joyce Huggett

Prayer and Service
Much of our thinking in Prayer College has been about personal devotions within the "prayer closet". But maturity in prayer requires us to learn how to take that spirit of prayer and the sense of the Lord's presence out into our world.

It is clear from the gospels that the Lord Jesus spent extended periods alone in prayer. He also devoted huge amounts of time to giving of Himself to others. Last week we compared Mary's worship with Martha's service and saw how the Lord commended Mary for her devotion. But in Jesus we see the perfect marriage of prayer and service.

The Priority of Prayer
The really important thing to grasp as we attempt to live the Christian life is that both prayer and service are important, but prayer must come first. Service must flow from what happens in our personal devotions. Not only so, our service should be saturated in prayer. Once we have learned the art of fellowshiping with the Lord in the quiet place of our sacred space, we need to learn how to maintain that awareness of His presence in the noise of our daily lives. As Catherine de Hueck Doherty says in her book "Pustinia",

"The Lord is calling us to stand still before Him while walking with men. Yes, the next step ... is the ability to walk with men and be contemplatives while we are walking."

Joyce Huggett quotes Guy Brinkworth as saying,

"A background yearning for God can be sustained in the middle of any activity as a kind of 'celestial music while you work'".

The Fragrance of Jesus
The goal is to take "the fragrance of Jesus" wherever we go, to be so filled with His love that it overflows and touches the lives of those with whom we come into contact, not in any ethereal way, but in practical expressions of compassion and service. If we haven't taken the time to saturate ourselves in the love of God our service will be dry, lifeless and of limited effect.

At first it is not easy to maintain that awareness of the Lord when we leave our place of prayer. It is an art that has to be learned. The 17th century monk, Brother Lawrence, described this learning process as practising the presence of God. As he performed his menial tasks within the kitchen of his Carmelite monastery he made the conscious effort to keep turning his thoughts towards Jesus and to worship Him. It is not easy because the distractions of daily life call for our attention with louder voices than that of the Spirit. But there are very simple things we can do to get started and, as is always the case with prayer, when we take just a few faltering steps towards the Lord, He runs with giant strides to meet us.

Prayer College Assignment
In her book The Power of Simple Prayer: How to Talk with God About Everything Joyce Meyer says, "prayer needs to be like breathing - regular, easy, second nature - and we need to just pray our way through life as part of the way we live". Try these few simple ideas to help you "turn your eyes upon Jesus" throughout the day: play worship songs or get hold of the Bible on CD (several versions available in the Prayer College bookstore) and listen while you drive; pray a blessing on people as you pass them in the street; look for opportunities to thank God for things like the bargain you find in the discount aisle at the supermarket; ask Him to help you find your misplaced keys; pray as you watch the news for the situations being reported and the people involved; and simplest of all, tell the Lord you love Him at any and every opportunity. He never gets tired of hearing you say it and you may even hear Him reply, "I love you too."

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