Prayer is one of the basic practices of the Christian life. It is one of the most intimate and encouraging experiences that the follower of Jesus can have. But it can also be frustrating, mundane, obligatory, even disappointing.
Prayer is when we ask for his kingdom to come and his will to be done. It is us inviting God into our lives. And when we do that, we are also stepping into his life as those who live in his kingdom and may be used to bring his will.
(Let’s be fair here, many of us focus our time in prayer on asking for our portion of daily bread, and it’s probably fair to assume that some, like me, think that our serving includes a great many things—that’s not to say that we are not encouraged to pray for and shown examples of praying for different things in Scripture, it’s just an acknowledgement that I am often short on his kingdom and his will and long on my needs and wants.)
Talking with God is our chance to be honest with him and that means being honest with ourselves. If prayer is a way of opening ourselves to God, then we step into the presence of a God who lives in light (1 Timothy 6:16). In our approach to God, when we seek his forgiveness for our sins, we are asking for his light to shine on us. This can be terrifying.
When his light does shine on us and we allow ourselves to see what is revealed by it, we have to accept what we see there. His light dispels the shadowy places that we would keep to ourselves. This may tempt us to pray insincerely, to avoid the difficult and uncomfortable views that God’s light may expose.
When we truly come into the presence of God, his light burns away the pretense of righteousness and reveals us for who we are to a God that already knows us. The revealing light of the Lord does not teach God who we are; instead it allows us to see ourselves, and the pale complexion of places long kept in the shadows.
It is in this light that we can ask for his grace and mercy for those places that we know desperately need it. It can be tempting not to pray, not to really pray but simply rehearse, to avoid the burn of such intense light on our hidden places.
But God’s light does not simply dispel the dark shadowy places that we wish to have remain hidden. Stepping into the presence of a God who lives in light reveals every part of us, the places yet unfinished and the places that have been remodeled and remolded, revealing his work to recreate us into who he intends us to be.
Prayer is a chance to tour ourselves, guided by the Holy Spirit. He walks beside us, pointing to the places where his work is not yet complete, reminding us that in Jesus Christ even those places we keep in the shadows are rooms to be renovated by his love. He also holds up the before photos of certain places, reminding us of the condition in which he found us, and the rejuvenation he has brought to our life. We walk with him, marveling at the work done and appreciating the potential that still exists for our growth, and grateful that the tools of renovation are in his hands and not ours.
When we come to God in prayer, truly come into the presence of the Lord and invite him into our lives, it is an intimate and transformative experience. It takes us back in human history to the intimacy of the Garden of Eden when God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. God knew them; they knew God, and they knew each other and themselves.