Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity, none is more essential and yet more neglected than prayer. --François Fénelon

A man's daughter had asked the local minister to come and pray with her father. When the minister arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows, with an empty chair beside his bed. The minister assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. “I guess you were expecting me”, he said. “No, who are you?” said the father. The minister told him his name and then remarked, “I saw the empty chair and I figured you knew I was going to show up.” “Oh yeah, the chair,” said the bedridden man. “Would you mind closing the door?”

Puzzled, the minister shut the door. “I have never told anyone this, not even my daughter,” said the man. “But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At church, I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer, until one day four years ago; my best friend said to me, 'Johnny, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Here is what I suggest. Sit down in a chair; place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith, see Jesus in the chair. Jesus promised to be with us always. So, just speak to Him in the same way you're doing with me right now.' So, I tried it and I like it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.”
The minister was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old man to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the church. Two nights later the daughter called to tell the minister that her daddy had died that afternoon. “Did he die in peace?” he asked. ”Yes,” the daughter replied, “When I left the house about two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him, but there was something strange about his death. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?' The minister wiped a tear from his eye and said, “I wish we could all go like that.”

There is no way to know if the story recounted above is true. There are no names, dates or places that we can pin to the narrative. However, just as Jesus taught the crowds and Disciples in parables, we also can learn from stories that teach us how to know God better. The actual events may or may not be true, but there is truth in the tale.

The truth lies in the privilege we have through Jesus Christ to come to God in prayer. The task that was once reserved for those set aside for holy work, is now available to all. In fact, it has always been available to everyone, but the human rules and laws restricted access to God by the common person, and reserved it for the priesthood.

Are you having trouble in your prayer life? Perhaps you feel that God doesn’t hear your prayers. Maybe you feel this way, because you have fallen into the trap of believing you are not eloquent or sophisticated enough to approach God. Nothing could be further from the truth.

God hears you whether you use the language of the King James Bible, or the simple dialogue of a three-year-old. God has no use for our words anyway. He listens to our heart. Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” He does not give the desires of our minds or our bodies. He listens to our hearts and gives us what our heart desires. If our heart is His, then we will desire the things that God wants for us.

Praying is simply talking to our Father. Pull up a chair and tell Him the desires of your heart.

And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. Matthew 6:5-8

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