Author Ann Marie:
Prayer: What is it, and why are we ought not to be afraid
I was listening to a preacher earlier today talking about how many people in the church do not know how to pray, and I was taken back a bit. What did she mean? Is prayer as complicated as some Preachers and Theologians make it out to be? As I began to ponder this question, the lowly Publican came to mind. I am not speaking of the Republican, as in current party affiliation, but the Publican, as in Luke 18:13 (King James Version) “And the publican, (some translation, tax collector), standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”
I am not sure how the preacher came to her conclusion, but we all could benefit from going back to the basics on talking to God (praying). Prayer is communication between God the Father and His children (us). While our Lord provided a guideline, (the Lord’s Prayer), on how to pray, prayer is personal. It is an intimate communication between the believer and his or her Father. It is not posturing for fellow believers. The goal is not to have others look at us in awe, but rather to look to God who is able to meet our every need, as well as the need of a lost and dying world.
Therefore, Jesus asked us not to pray using “vain repetition” (Matthew 6:7). Vain repetition is quite often a reflection of the heart. It reflects how we see God, and what role He plays in our world and our lives. If we have a loving Father who we believe cares for us, we will approach him with reference (respect), while (being grateful) thankful for who He is and what He has done and will continue to do for us. This is not difficult to do, if our hearts are submitted and vulnerable before a God who is able to make and mold us into His image and bring us in line with His will for our lives.
Without becoming too philosophical, the prayer of the publican is a very profound one. If you noticed, this individual very aware of who and what he was. He was probably despised by many in society, due in part because of his occupation (see Luke 18:11). He was fully aware of his desperate situation, both from the world around him, as well as his desperation before God. He was not delusional about how he was viewed by others, but most importantly how God viewed him. He was aware of who he was and God’s ability to cleanse him from his sins. Based on his actions, he was grateful for the opportunity to approach an awesome, Supreme God who loved him, despite himself and others.
The Publican did a few things we can all learn from. They are as follows:
1) He was repentant and contrite
2) He presented before God as humble
3) He was grateful and or thankful for the opportunity to draw close to God in prayer
None of the attributes of the Publican can be taught formally. They must be developed in the heart, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit. We can be reminded to be repentant, humble and grateful, but ultimately, we must submit to the Word of God and come under the conviction of the Holy Spirit, who will then expose our hearts, (our true motives), and remind us of who God is in all His splendor and glory. We have, then, no reason to hide. We can be honest with ourselves before a Holy God who want us to be our best.