Many people seem to understand prayer as little more than a visit with a Santa Claus-type figure who can grant our every wish.
This misconception leads not only to a failure to approach God how and when we should but also to the inability to recognize Godâ€™s actions when they come.
Prayer opens our eyes of faith to see God at work in our lives and in the world. It equips us to be watchful and aware of Godâ€™s deliverance and provision.
And here are a few of my favorite thoughts on prayer (from P T Forsyth’s The Soul of Prayer – a book that has been truly formative for me).
Bible searching and searching prayer go hand in hand. What we receive from God in the Book’s message we return to him with interest in prayer. Nothing puts us in living contact with God but prayer … And therefore nothing does so much for our originality, so much to make us our own true selves, to stir up all that it is in us to be, and hallow all we are.
In life it is not ‘dogged that does it’ in the last resort, and it is not hard work; it is faculty, insight, gift, talent, genius. And what genius does in the natural world prayer does in the spiritual. Nothing can give us so much power and vision. It opens a fountain perpetual and luminous at the centre of our personality, where we are sustained because we are created anew and not simply refreshed. For there the springs of life continually rise.
Prayer, true prayer, does not allow us to deceive ourselves. It relaxes the tension of our self-inflation.
We are not humble in God’s sight, partly because in our prayer there is a point at which we cease to pray, where we do not turn everything out into God’s light.
Prayer is the assimilation of a holy God’s moral strength.
Prayer alone prevents our receiving God’s grace in vain … The true Church is thus co-extensive with the community of true prayer.
I think Forsyth was one of the true “seers” in these things. He wrote penetratingly of prayer. In his other writings he often used the phrase “holy love” in explaining God’s dealings with the human race. That is a phrase that also says a lot about his experience with prayer and his teaching about prayer.