I have been a Jesus-follower for 50 years. It has been an amazing and exciting journey; surprises, sudden turns, potholes, some detours and, at times, (many times) open roads with wide lanes. One of the aspects of my journey with Jesus is prayer.
I believe one of the qualities of a maturing Christian and a fruitful and effective leader is a growing and deepening prayer life…not measured primarily by the number of minutes or hours spent in prayer but by a consistent attitude of dependency, expectancy and gratitude.
Many years ago I took a walk for several miles with my then mentor, Warren Myers. As we began walking he suggested we pray. I think I might have prayed for a few minutes and during that time prayed for everything and everyone I could possibly think of. I observed Warren as he prayed. He was quite oblivious to the time in a way that sent a clear signal that he loved to pray, loved Jesus and loved people. It was a walk in the school of prayer. Living with Warren in a home at that time with a few other young men for training, and observing his prayer life, deepened my desire to grow in prayer.
Since those experiences with Warren, I have learned a lot about a growing intimacy with Jesus through prayer.
When I first began to follow Jesus most of what I prayed about was for Him to do things FOR ME. Lord, I need this and I need that. I’m struggling here and hurting there and want you to make life easier for me. It was mostly about me; my needs, my pain and my issues.
Then I was led by the Holy Spirit to begin focusing on things I wanted to see Him accomplish IN ME. Now it was about my character, my attitudes and my spiritual maturity; but still mostly about me.
Then I moved into a 3rd stage of praying about what I wanted to see Him do THROUGH ME. Now the main focus was on others, not me. I am reminded of an old song we use to sing, “Channels Only.”
The refrain is:
“Channels only, blessed Master, but with all your wondrous power
Flowing through us, you can use us every day and every hour.”
I am a channel, not a depository for God. I want his power and grace to flow through me not just to me.
Now I am not saying that you move from For to In to Through and then when you get to “through me” you are no longer interested in “for” and “to”; but more along the lines that as I grow in my prayer journey, it is less about what I want to receive and more about what He wants to build into my life and do through my life.
The first verse of “Channels Only” continues:
“How I praise you precious savior that your love laid hold of me
You have saved and cleansed and filled me that I might your channel be.”
The bottom line is that the Christian life is not all about me, but all about Him and what He wants to accomplish in this world using me in the process.
Prayer is not a matter of bringing Jesus around to my way of thinking, but coming around to His way of thinking. I still have a long way to go in my prayer journey, but I am encouraged with where I’m headed.