Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
The name Cathy Freeman has been written into the record books and Australian folklore. Carrying the weight of the nation on her shoulders, Cathy was awarded the honour of lighting the flame at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney Olympics.
Ten days later, in a packed stadium of over 112,000 people, and wearing a now legendary full body suit, she collected the ultimate prize. Taking the lead 75 metres from home Cathy Freeman held off her challengers to win Olympic Gold by four metres in 49.11 seconds. It was an amazing feat. In 2001, she was awarded the Olympic Order from the IOC (International Olympic Committee).
Cathy Freeman has been quoted as saying many things, but I am interested today in one thing she said to a reporter:
I felt so full of gratitude that I clasped my hands in front of me, closed my eyes, and said a silent prayer of thanks to God. I had at last achieved something I’d wanted for so long. It was a dream come true.
She said a silent prayer of thanks to God. Of course, she is not the first person to have done that. I’m sure millions have said a prayer—even if they’re not prepared to reveal it. For many people, prayer is like mowing the lawn. We know we should, and we feel better when we have—but we don’t really look forward to it, and find excuses to put it off as long as possible.
What Is Prayer?
After all, what good does it do? Does it really work? In our more serious moments, we can ask, how do we know how to pray? Is there some kind of formula that is right? Is there a right or wrong way to pray?
Not like the Christian who was driving down the street in a sweat because she had an important meeting and couldn’t find a parking space. Looking up toward heaven, she said, Lord, take pity on me. If you find me a parking place I’ll go to Mass every Sunday for the rest of my life and give up drinking wine. Miraculously, a parking space opened up right in front of her destination. The woman looked up to heaven and said, Never mind, Lord; I found one on my own.
Prayer is basically talking with God.
Sometimes we get bogged down with the idea of prayer because we see it as a religious ritual that is too complex and difficult to do in our regular lives. Yet the reality is that prayer is basically talking with God in an ordinary way about our ordinary lives—it’s not that difficult.
Do you ever feel during prayer, that you’re talking to the ceiling more than God? Don’t worry, you’re not alone—that happens to everyone who takes prayer seriously. Is prayer some kind of superstitious exercise—like owning a genie that pops out of a bottle and grants us our wish whenever we’ve been a good boy or girl? What is prayer? What role does prayer play in your life?
So, why do we pray? We pray because prayers can change the outcomes in our lives. Our walk with God is meant to be one where we are continually aware of God’s presence. The Christian is a person who is free to communicate with God the concerns and joys of the moment.
Prayer is something like having a co-worker or friend who is stationed beside you. In this case our companion is the Holy Spirit who functions as a Counsellor or Comforter we can consult with so we are able to keep in step with God. Prayer is the Spirit’s tool to keep us living in communion with God. Prayer is first of all an act of worship—an expression of our adoration of God and thanking him for who he is.
In the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, he gives us a pattern of praying that begins by paying attention to God. Jesus taught us to first pray that God’s name be hallowed, that his kingdom would come and that his will be done. Then he teaches us to come to God with our need for daily bread and God’s grace and protection. An attitude of gratitude is built into the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer.
In Prayer We Partner with God
When we pray, we open the door for God to come into our problems and situations and work on them. Prayer makes us partners with God. And while we can’t really change people and make them love God, he can minister to their hearts and reach them.
I also believe that prayer is easier than we think it is. And it can be so much a part of our life that we don’t even realise how much we pray—like breathing.
So Jesus told them, “Pray in this way: ‘Father, help us to honor your name. Come and set up your kingdom. (Luke 11:2 – CEV)
Prayer doesn’t have to be eloquent or long. And prayer isn’t better if it’s loud or if you’re on your knees, folding your hands or bowing your head. It’s good to humble yourself, but it’s not your posture or how long you pray that makes it effective. Spend time with God. Talk to him sincerely and honestly. Cast your cares on him. Then find out what he wants you to do—and then follow his lead.
Do we need God through prayer? Yes! We were made to function best, emotionally, in a prayerful relationship with God. As C.S. Lewis put it, “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.”
If you’ve not taken prayer seriously, spend 10 minutes today and talk to a loving God who hears every word, and knows what’s in your mind.