Prayer is intentionally turning your face towards God. When we seek the presence of God, we allow God’s presence to shape every aspect of our lives that are not fully redeemed. This past Sunday, I focused on the need for times of contemplation. We looked at the pattern shown to us in Luke where Jesus “often went off to lonely places to pray.” This time of solitude and silence provided a prayer life that shaped Jesus’ identity and ministry. His time in the wilderness being tempted by Satan was guided by his prayer life. He was not frantic or chaotic but demonstrated the peace that comes from the presence of God as he responded to Satan’s temptations. I want to develop the discipline to allow my time with God to shape the interior of my life to where I am more sane in what I do.
There is a time and place for taking requests to God, offering thanksgiving, etc. What I want to focus on in our discussions about prayer is what it means to place yourself in the presence of God and to listen for his voice in your life. Through those experiences, we slow down, dismantle the business, and find rest. I’ll keep repeating this: It is Jesus’ prayer life that shapes his actions and decisions. What does it look like to allow taking time to slow down and rest in the presence of God to shape different parts of your life?
When I think about prayer transforming my interior of life, Jesus’ words in Matt 12:43-45 paint a vivid picture of what is at stake. He says, “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” When I think about how I have often approached my Christian walk, I have worked really hard to organize my life in such a way that when people look at me, they see someone who “walks the Christian walk.” What they see is a house that is decent and in order. I was baptized. I went to Bible class…to Bible college…etc. I didn’t fall into the “worldly sins” for whatever that is worth. I spoke well and held myself in a way the gained respect. My house was decent and in order.
I remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 12 hitting me with deep conviction. When it comes to organizing your house and dealing with your sin issues, you end up in a worse place than you were before if you organize your life in a decent and orderly way but fail to invite the Holy Spirit to take up residence there. Prayer has a way of exposing the junk in our “house” and inviting God into those spaces to bring transformation. I want you to reflect on this image of the house as we reflect on prayer and prepare for hearing a word from God together on Sunday.
Take some time for reflection:
Turn your phone off, remove all distractions if possible, and take a few minutes to focus on your breathing. If your mind is really busy, just keep repeating, “Lord, have mercy” slowly with each breath.
When you feel like you’ve slowed down, picture a house that represents your life. When you walk into the door, what do you see? Where are the messes in your life? Picture Jesus walking into those spaces and making his home. Hold on to that image and give it to God as a prayer.
Ask God to enter these areas of your life and take up residence there.
When you receive baptism, the Holy Spirit is given to you as a gift (Acts 2:38). The Spirit is a fire that burns within you but has to be tended. Paul’s instruction in 1 Thessalonians 5 is to pray continually (17) and to not quench the Spirit (19). When we intentionally place ourselves in the presence of God, allowing ourselves to be examined, we kindle the Spirits fire in a way that gives warmth to the whole house.
If you want to take this study further, take time to read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) with this imagery in mind. Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. He then examines different areas of the law and goes deeper with them to examine the interior of the person. Look at the section on murder in Matt 5:21-26. He moves beyond the fact that you have managed to not murder anyone but then asks how your anger is doing. If you allow your anger to be examined by God, your interior will be transformed and you will be a more peaceful person. People who are at peace at the core of their being find it very difficult to inflict harm on others. The Sermon on the Mount provides a lot of guidance for prayerful reflection to invite the presence of God into areas of your life in need to redemption and transformation.
My prayer for myself, for you, and for our church collectively is that we will be people who continually open ourselves to the presence of God in prayer, continually being redeemed and transformed. I pray that we will be people of peace where the people around us can find refreshment from the chaos of life they live in. Lord, take up residence in us and make us your home.