I’ve been reading this book titled Celebration of Disciplines; The path to Spiritual Growth by Richard Foster. I decided to read it slowly, like chapter by chapter each week since it talks of Disciplines,these are things that are mastered by action not known by just reading alone. I like his style of writing. He counters all arguments you have, even before you raise them. Its the kind of book critical thinkers will enjoy since he talks to you as if in a bid to win you over on his side. Not as if you were already on his side.
So the first discipline was meditation. I’ll admit I never thought meditation had anything to do with my spiritual growth. When the psalmist says he meditates upon God’s word day and night, in my head that meant thinking, not the meditation that yoga people do. Not that that’s the one Richard Foster is advocating for, but it opened my mind to something I had never considered doing. And he describes christian meditation as the ability to hear God’s voice and obey his word.
But that is not what I want us to talk about. Its the second discipline that has floored me.
So I open the second discipline which is prayer, and I felt like skipping onto the third one. I mean, I knew I didn’t know everything about prayers, but I also knew that at least of all spiritual disciplines, I’m good at this one. But after little consideration I decided to read it as a by the way. Sharon, a close friend of mine, always says, there is no wasted knowledge.
So as I read, I realise that my idea of prayer is kinda slightly different from his. According to him, to pray is to change. I mean, I know prayer isn’t just about asking and receiving, and I know its about fellowship with God, and I agree with him that praying should be more listening than talking( something I should improve on), but to pray is to change? I felt as if that had a deeper meaning than I understood.
So when he recommended another book that helped him, I went looking for it. The title of the book even just caught my attention. With Christ in the school of Prayer by Andrew Murray.
Na tusema tu, nimejua sijui ( I’ve realised how ignorant I was). Every chapter here in this book on prayer is exposing my foolishness which I thought was wisdom when I wanted to skip the chapter on prayer. And indeed as the book says, I’m with Christ in the school of prayer. And I’ll share some of our lessons so far.
You remember the Samaritan woman? Well, I think that’s the first time Jesus talks of prayer. And he tells the woman that a time is coming when people shall worship the father in truth and in spirit. And that that hour has come.
I’ve heard the above verse many times but seems I understood it all wrong.
When Jesus says worshipping the father in spirit, what does that mean? This simply means being in harmony with the father. And the only way to be in harmony with the father is by having a ‘sonship’ kind of situation with him. And that only comes through Christ. No wonder Jesus tells the woman, an hour is coming, and now is that hour. Before Jesus we could not worship the father in spirit because the one who was to make us sons, and thus giving us same spirit with the father had not yet come. You notice in the Old Testament no one addressed God as my father personally? So to pray in spirit, is not something that comes from your mind to God, its a spirit thing( its like an exchange between two spirits that are walking in harmony).
And what does in truth mean? I always thought it meant praying according to God’s word. Or at least praying sincerely. Well, you remember to pray is to change? Same concept here, in truth means for real. Like that fellowship you have with God brought about using prayer shall be visible in your life. Like your daily life shall reflect the fellowship you have with God inside there. No wonder Jesus scraps off people going to a certain temple or place to worship..the worshippers God desires shall do so wherever they are. They shall be walking temples. And God dwelling in them shall be shown in the way they think, act or speak. It shall be for real this time. Not just knowing God’s word in your mind, but it not having any impact in your daily life.
But what caught my attention the most was the Lord’s prayer. I knew it would be there, I actually would not have been surprised if i had found that the book was based on this one example of prayer. But he covers it in one chapter. But he does it in a very interesting way. This perspective he has tackled it from, changes the Lord’s prayer from an example of how we should pray, to an example of how we should live.
Interesting to know that Jesus didn’t teach his disciples how to preach but he taught them how to pray. And more interesting to note that after spending time with Jesus, him healing the sick, chasing out demons, condemning the Pharisees’s behavior, the only thing they asked Jesus to teach them was how to pray. They must have noticed that Jesus prayed differently and that that difference is what would give them the rest of those things they could have asked to be taught but didn’t. That shows us the importance of prayer in our lives.
Anyway onto our father’s prayer.
Our father who art in heaven.
Jesus by this opening line, gives us the attitude we are supposed to approach our God with in prayer. Not as a King( which God is), not as a Rock, or Creator or Owner of the universe but as our father. You see, assume you work with your father in a family owned business. When you are at work, you’ll approach your father as the CEO of the company that he is, not as your father, but while at home, you’ll call him dad and maybe even crack irrelevant jokes. Jesus knows God has many aspects of himself that we know of. And He tells us to approach our God as our father at any given point.
This cancels out a lot of fears we have. A son knows the father cares for him. A son will never refuse to run to the father simply because he is dirty or injured. Actually, that will be more reason for a child to run to his father. But a person might refuse to go see the king when he or she feels dirty, right? That’s why Jesus tells us to approach prayer with the attitude of we are going to see our loving father. This isn’t just a concept we are supposed to read and know, we are supposed to internalize it and let it drive away all fears we might have ever had about approaching our dad. Its love simply explained.
Hallowed be thy name.
Hallowed means consecrated or sanctified, sacred or holy. And how will this happen? This is practical in our lives. Remember prayer isn’t something we say but to pray is to change? Well, if we allow the Holy Spirit to lead our lives, then God’s name will be hallowed in our lives( practically- how we live daily). Only Him can hallow his name, we can’t do that by our own. No wonder we pray that Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come
God is a king, he has a kingdom in which the son Jesus is an heir. We are sons too by virtue of Christ. But whereas Christ is in heaven, where God’s kingdom is already manifested, we are on earth where God’s kingdom hasn’t been manifested fully. No wonder after approaching God as our father, asking that His name be glorified, we are now moving onto the next business of the day. That our dad’s kingdom be brought where we are. Isn’t it only natural for a son of a king to want his father’s kingdom be extended? Especially if you are heir to it?
No wonder Jesus was insisting on us seeing God as a father. You see, a soldier might fight for the king, but they don’t always have the King’s interest at heart, no wonder some defect and go form their own kingdoms. Same concept, we’ll struggle to do God’s will and spread his gospel unless we too share in the same heart behind it. Unless you understand the whole ‘Sonship’ that Christ came to unveil, then you’ll forever struggle to do God’s will and follow God’s word. Not that as a son its easier, but it flows from a place deeper than your mind. It comes from knowing that you are forever accepted and also forever working towards being like the first born; Jesus Christ. This goes hand in hand with Thy will be done in Heaven as it is on earth.
Give us this day our daily bread.
Now before we tackle this, did you notice that the Lord’s prayer starts with Thy Name, Thy Kingdom and Thy Will before moving onto Give us, Forgive Us ,Lead us and deliver us? Just like with the commandments, we start with God first not our needs or us. That should be the attitude, what is God’s will for me, my family, my country and earth? That should come before what you would want for yourself, your family and country.
Jesus told us that our father knows our needs even before we ask of them. That means that all those prayers I have been making trying to convince God to give me something were ill advised on my part( the convincing part that is). God knows what I need, when I need it and how I need it. He doesn’t have to be quoted for his scripture where he is promising me something for him to suddenly remember that He said so thus should do so because Mercy needs this thing saa hii. Aki I’m now realising how much I didn’t know how to pray ( like what was I doing!? He he )
And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Now that we have been given our daily bread to feed our body, we need soul food. That’s how Christ sees it. And this shouldn’t be a formality because only confessed sins shall be forgiven. Like by the time we leave or go to God, you should be able to say that you know of no one whom you do not heartily love. Doesn’t that go against our saying, “Time heals”. You know, that part where we carry on grudges for years because we are waiting for time to tone them down. Well, healing may take time, but forgiving shouldn’t. Imagine if God forgave our sins the way we forgive others…some of us would not be forgiven so easily.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
After our daily bread, our soul being sorted out, comes maintainance sasa. This means not just sticking with God for a day or two but forever. And the thing that would make us not to abide in him are temptations and the evil one. We thus pray that God keeps us in him and that he delivers us from the evil one who is prowling around looking for someone to devour.
After such an intense prayer of dedicating yourself to God, your requests to him, and asking him to be with you, tell me how that doesn’t result to change?
I’m excited to just seat at Jesus’ feet and have him teach me how to pray just like he did with the disciples. Like really excited. I didn’t know I was this unknowledgeable.
Anyway, see? To pray is to change.