During a time of year when people consider prayer, especially thankfulness, I think it would be good to look at what prayer is.
If you are familiar with the books, The Chronicles of Narnia, you may have heard this excerpt from the book titled The Silver Chair. In this part of the book Jill, who has just been informed that the animals in Narnia speak and who is also parched with thirst, is introduced to Aslan as she approaches a stream full of much needed water.
“If you are thirsty, you may drink.”
They were the first words she had heard since Scrubb had spoken to her on the edge of the cliff. For a second she stared here and there, wondering who had spoken. Then the voice said again, “If you are thirsty, come and drink,” and of course she remembered what Scrubb had said about animals talking in that other world, and realized that it was the lion speaking. Anyway, she had seen its lips move this time, and the voice was not like a man’s. It was deeper, wilder, and stronger; a sort of heavy, golden voice. It did not make her any less frightened than she had been before, but it made her frightened in rather a different way.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the lion.
“May I – could I – would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.
It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion – no one who had seen his stern face could do that – and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.
Have you ever considered how you should approach God? If you knew much about God, or if you considered His awesome power, His perfect goodness, and our unworthiness, you may feel a little like Jill in this story. If you don’t, then maybe you should.
Sometimes we get a little too comfortable with God. It’s true that He is our friend. He is our Father. He is our Savior. It is also true that He made everything we see or we even know about, He is holy in that He is perfectly good, just, and righteous, and we have no business in front of Him unless we are hidden in His Son’s perfection.
Unfortunately though, sometimes we try to domesticate God or Jesus. Sometimes we like to think of Him as tame. But just as the mouse says in another Narnia book, “Aslan is not tame lion”. Neither is God a tame God. So we must be careful how we approach Him.
How do we approach God? What is that called? Many times the way that we approach God is in prayer.
How do we do that?
Matthew 6:5 (ESV)
5 “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
Most basically, prayer is communication with God. It is the way that people speak to God. It is our entrance into the throne room of the Holy One. It is our approach into the presence of God.
This is made possible by the great mediator, Jesus, Son of God. It is only by his sacrifice that one is given admittance into that room. So, let me ask you, if you were going into that room, into the very presence of God, how would you go? If you knew that you were entering into a face to face conversation with the King of Kings, how would you walk up to him?
Over the next few days, I would like to offer to you four things I think we can know about prayer. These are four ways we can think about prayer that might help us to pray better. I call these points the Prescription, the Posture, the Purpose, and the Power of Prayer.
Why look at prayer… because prayer is not merely us telling God some thing. Prayer is God’s invitation for us to enter into his presence.