Purpose of this Session
Some things seem obvious or unnecessary to consider, but for some, scriptural teaching on the basics can release them from traditions and religious habits that have prevented them enjoying the liberty we have been granted in the Holy Ghost.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
(2 Corinthians 3:17 NKJV)
First, we will look at posture.
Posture in prayer
The posture of the body is of little importance in prayer. Certainly one does not have to kneel or place one’s hands together in order to pray. What is important, regardless of physical position, is the posture of the heart.
In scripture we have examples in prayer of people:
i. Standing (Mark 11:25)
ii. Kneeling (Luke 22:41)
iii. Prostrate (face down) (Matthew 26:39)
iv. Laying down (Psalm 63:6)
v. Sitting (1 Chronicles 17:16)
Wesley Duewel in ‘Mighty Prevailing Prayer’, speaks of posture and passion in prayer, saying:
“Real passion is not synonymous with physical exertion. Spiritual wrestling is not dependent on physical activity. Prayer passion is not produced by lifting the hand, waving the arm, standing, kneeling, lying prostrate on the floor, walking back and forth, or any other form of prayer posture or action. The Holy Spirit may lead you to such change of posture, especially when you are praying alone in your secret place.
Sometimes use of such a posture for the time being harmonizes with or expresses the mood of your soul – humility before God, hungry pleas for God, waiting in His presence, or spiritual determination and urgency. Many mighty prayer warriors, like Brainerd and Finney, have had their bodies soaked with perspiration from intense soul anguish in their prevailing prayer, even as Christ sweat the blood-sweat in Gethsemane. But do not try to work up spiritual intensity by your human exertion.”
The Time of Prayer
Unlike Islam and some other religions Christianity does not necessarily have particular times which are commanded for prayer or spiritual activity. Even adherence to the set times of Judaism, the old covenant which formed the basis of the new, is no longer required from the faithful. The Old Testament, with its types and shadows found completion and fulfilment in Christ. He ushered in a new covenant, based not on law, but grace and freedom.
Of this truth Paul says:
“But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years.” (Gal 4:9-10 NKJV)
“One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it...” (Rom 14:5-6)
There is nothing especially holy about Saturday (the traditional Jewish Sabbath) or a Sunday (the traditional day of Christian worship). Nor is early morning more holy than 2pm in the afternoon. The time is sanctified (set apart for God’s purposes) by the activity or altar it is placed upon. When we take time to pray, whenever it may be, it becomes a time ‘esteemed’, a time ‘unto the Lord’.
Jesus spoke about the reality of ‘abiding’ in Him. In this respect, all our time is set apart, not just one day each week, or one or two hours each day.
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4 NKJV)
In respect to establishing a lifestyle of prayer however, set times can aid the development of a discipline, which quickly will become a delight! If we pray only when we ‘feel’ like it, the unfortunate truth is, we will often ‘feel’ more like an extra hours sleep, or a session in front of the TV, than a time set apart to seek God. Jesus said to His disciples the following statement which to varying degrees is certainly true of all of us:
“Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”” (Matt 26:40-41 NKJV)
Often, because disciples (which literally means ‘disciplined ones’) fail to develop a discipline of prayer, including a degree of consistency and habit, they never enter below the surface of spiritual life to taste and enjoy its benefits.
The currency of intimacy = TIME
The currency of intimacy is ‘time’. If a husband never spends time with his wife, it is unlikely that intimacy will ever develop between them; the opposite is true, what intimacy does exist diminishes as the situation continues. Time is an essential ingredient in any healthy relationship. This is immediately applicable to prayer.
If time is the currency of intimacy, and is a currency that can only ever be spent (it can not be gained or replaced, once it is spent it is spent forever), it is a currency of utmost value. There is not one thing more precious. Where we ‘spend’ our time reveals much about what or whom we truly value. Jesus said that where our treasure is, that is where our heart is (Matthew 6:21). The context of these verses is money, but we could, without twisting the principle revealed here, apply it to our time. Where our time is spent, reveals where our heart is inclined.
In this, we encourage every student who has not already established a ‘discipline’ of prayer, to seek to do so. Prayer is not just something we ‘do’, it is our life. Connecting with God is not an option, it is a necessity.
“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek, inquire for, and [insistently] require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord [in His presence] all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty [the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness] of the Lord and to meditate, consider, and inquire in His temple.
You have said, Seek My face [inquire for and require My presence as your vital need]. My heart says to You, Your face (Your presence), Lord, will I seek, inquire for, and require [of necessity and on the authority of Your Word].”
(Psalm 27:4,8 AMP)
The Scriptures reveal that men of God and Jesus Himself (our ultimate example of the life of prayer) observed set times and seasons of prayer. The believer may pray at set times or at any time, and should seek to cultivate and maintain a spirit or attitude of prayer at all times.
This attitude of heart constitutes the life of prayer, which when yielded to, results in both spontaneous expression, and habitual fellowship and intercession.
i. Some saints prayed three times a day (morning, afternoon and evening) (Daniel 6:10; Psalm 55:16-17)
ii. Some prayed at other set times or seasons (Acts 3:1; Acts 10:30 3pm – the ‘hour’ of prayer)
iii. Peter prayed at noon (Acts 10:9)
iv. At times Jesus prayed all night (Luke 6:12).
v. Jesus also prayed very early in the morning (before day break) (Mark 1:35), as did David (Psalm 63:1)
vi. Isaiah speaks of desiring God in the night, and seeking Him early in the morning (Isaiah 26:9)
vii. We are encouraged as believers to pray at all times
“[Jesus] told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not to turn coward (faint, lose heart, and give up).” (Luke 18:1 AMP)
“praywithout ceasing,” (1Th 5:17 NKJV)
Mary Alice Isleib says concerning “praying always”;
“Praying always means to be easily given to prayer. It doesn’t mean that we just walk around all day just praying in tongues, although that may be a part of it. It means to be easily given to prayer, so that we can pray by faith whenever we choose to, and we are also sensitive when the Holy Spirit moves on us, to yield to Him, and to move with Him. It’s developing a prayer life and being easily given to the spirit of prayer.”
The place of prayer
There is no place where prayer may or may not be made. We do not have to face a certain direction, or be in a holy ‘building’ to pray. As with posture being one of humility and faith of the heart rather than position of the body, so the place is ‘in the spirit’, not a physical location. Pastor Andy Elmes of Family church, Portsmouth, relates it this way. He says that the ‘secret place’ is not a location, but a desire of the heart. The hungry heart will always find somewhere to pray and fellowship with God. The Scriptures do suggest if possible that we should however have a ‘place of prayer’; somewhere we retire to seek God. Jesus, for example, would often withdraw to the mountains, the desert, or even the Garden in Gethsemane. These were some of His favoured locations to fellowship with His Father.
Other places prayer is made in the Bible include:
i. In the desert/ a solitary place (Mark 1:35)
ii. On a roof (Acts 10:9)
iii. Up a mountain (Matt 14:23)
iv. Apart from others/alone (Matt 14:23)
v. In a room or chamber alone with God (Matthew 6:6; Daniel 6:10)
vi. In secret (Matthew 6:6)
vii. In the assembly place of the saints (Acts 1:14; 12:5; 20:36)
viii. In prison (Acts 16:25)
ix. In every place (John 4:20-24)
x. In the belly of a whale!
As has been said, prayer can be made anywhere, and a hungry heart will always find somewhere to seek God. This may be in the car, a shed, a wardrobe, a warehouse, a bedroom, a kitchen, a church building, a beach…anywhere that allows the believer to retreat from the crowd and seek the heart of his or her Father in heaven.
Regarding this area, just as a regular time is helpful, it is beneficial to have a regular place to pray. It allows the disciple to concentrate more fully because the environment is familiar, therefore less likely to distract. Also, the continued practice of prayer and the practice of the presence of God can open the heavens over a particular place making access to and from the spiritual realm easier. For example, it can be much easier to connect with God and focus your attention on prayer in a dedicated room of your own home, than to engage with God on a deep level in the aisles of the local supermarket.
Again, there is no place where prayer cannot be made, but the intimacy of lovemaking is not something a couple engage in the car as they drive to work in the morning. Deep intimacy and oneness is reserved for the ‘secret place’ or the ‘chamber’. Our Bridegroom is calling us into the chamber of intimacy, where our heart and purpose become one. Equally, if you are serious about prayer and intimacy with God, tagging it along with the rest of your busy schedule is unacceptable. There is place for continual fellowship and friendship, and the exercise of prayer throughout the day’s activities, but without private devotion to prayer alone with God, only the surface of possibility will be skimmed.
On a practical level, it is good to create a place that is comfortable and free from distraction, where you can seek the face of God and hear His counsel each day.
If music helps, utilise it in your times of seeking, burn oils to create a pleasant atmosphere, make sure there is enough light to read by if you are searching the scriptures. Cultivate an environment that facilitates intimacy and rest in God’s presence.
At the same time we must remember that intimacy is not a product of environment but an issue of the heart. To cultivate an inner environment of yieldedness, love, faith and passion for God is most important. The disciples were just as free to connect with heaven in a prison cell as they were in their homes. It was a matter of their hearts. For me, because I pray before day break, and enjoy expressive and sometimes loud prayer, I needed an environment that could facilitate this. My terraced house did not, so I sought out a local church and asked the minister if I could use a room in his building from 5am-7am each day. The basement of the local Baptist church is presently my ‘prayer closet’. I encourage you to believe God for the right place for your development in this vital area of Christian life.