What does one say in the 100th post on a blog about prayer? What could there possibly be left to say? Week by week I have prayed about what I should write and each time a slightly different thought has come to mind - 99 different aspects of the prayer life.
Prayer is indeed like a many faceted jewel, there are so many different ways to pray, so much that can be learned only through praying. Yet I have this feeling that we have mostly looked at it from one perspective and haven't yet discovered the myriad of delights which can be perceived from other angles.
The focus of Prayer College has primarily been on personal prayer and building our own relationships with the Lord Jesus Christ. The reason is because I believe that without a firm foundation in our life with Him, we cannot truly pray with any degree of faith or any confidence that we are praying according to His will. The same Lord who said, "remain in me and I in you," also said, in the same discourse, "apart from me you can do nothing," (Jn 15:1-5). That includes effective prayer.
The first purpose of prayer is to develop our relationship with God, to set down our roots in a life with Him. In prayer we see the awful contrast between His perfect holiness and our sin. In prayer we recognise our weakness and His almighty strength. In prayer we discover the lavishness of His love compared with the poverty of our own. In short, in prayer we gain a correct perspective of our creatureliness before our Creator.
Before we encounter God in prayer we may think we want a better paying job, a bigger car, more worldly recognition. But when we shut ourselves away in the secret place and meet with Jesus we begin to learn there is nothing more sweet than the sound of His voice, nothing more beautiful than being permitted to worship Him.
And when these things start to get a grip on our soul, our intercession for others who need His touch is no longer a duty, but a privilege we grasp with joy. To be able to come to the Father through Jesus and ask Him to mend broken relationships, to heal the sick and suffering, to reveal Himself to those who have not yet met Him, becomes the desire of our heart. We don't intercede because we can't think of any other way of helping (all I can do is pray) but because we know our heavenly Father loves those about whom we are concerned and wants to touch their lives.
So, I make no apology for my emphasis to date on developing intimacy with God, but perhaps the time has come to start to move beyond that to consider other aspects of prayer.
Prayer College Assignment
It has been said that the main thing is to keep the main thing as the main thing. In other words, never forget the original purpose. God's original purpose was fellowship with man and to win a bride for His Son. We need to continue to maintain our personal devotions as precisely that, expressions of devotion to the Lord. But if that does not develop into a vigorous intercessory life we will become bloated and our growth will be stunted. As we come to the beginning of a new year, ask the Lord to develop your prayer life so that you become increasingly effective for Him in the next 12 months.