Praying On Automatic Pilot

Monday in the Green Mountain State. I am in the east following a family wedding and taking the opportunity to have a few days in one of the most beautiful places in the world – the mountains of Vermont. Some time to spend many hours a day with the Lord and in His Word. More time than a normal day allows me back in my home office when ministering. It is quiet here as it is off season and so many of the country homes are empty and some even shut up for the season. However, many people now live on the lake front year round and so there is still some life in the evenings when people return from work. But, generally quiet and very serene.

This has always been a place where I could really sense God’s presence – a special place for me. And, this week is no different. Like Moses on the mountain top this is a mountain side (I am no where near the top of any of the peaks in the area) where God’s presence is very real for me and a place where, when I am still, I can hear God more clearly than most other places. This is not a place where a person can pray on automatic pilot. You know, praying the same way every day and using “stock phrases” that neither express your life to God nor release God’s love and life in you. The Psalmist states: “Pour out your hearts to Him…” (Psalm 62:8). This is a place where you cannot do anything but.

As I have been walking down the back roads and along the many streams that come down the mountainside and intersect with the roads I have been thinking of Jesus and how seriously He took prayer. In the early mornings (and I do mean early) overlooking the calm, serene lake that is 25 feet from the place I sleep I think of the early mornings He use to get up and get away from the busyness of ministry and mentoring just to be alone with His Father. There is no ministry here for me to do – I no longer know anyone and no one knows me. This is good. I am ignoring emails and phone calls in spite of my technological advances that allow me to receive both no matter where on the planet I happen to be. I wanted these few days to be a time when I could read and reread the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and simply watch Jesus in His daily “unforced rhythms of grace.” (see yesterday’s blog).

Jesus had an interesting prayer life. There seems to be four basic things I see in His less than routine prayer times…

1> He prayed regularly. Regardless of His busy schedule, emergencies that He faced, expectations and demands – He took time to be with His Father. When I typed that I originally typed “the Father” and felt the check of the Holy Spirit. For Jesus it was not time with “the Father” but time with “His Father”. It was not something He had to do it was something He wanted and needed to do – not as the Son of God but as the Son of Man. He simply needed to touch God regularly as a human being. So do we. Remember Jesus said to His disciples – “WHEN you pray…” not “IF you pray…”

2> He prayed privately. Those of us in ministry have many opportunities to pray publically. But God is not impressed by public displays of piety. He simply wants time with us privately so that the conversation is intimate and personal not public and ‘professional.’ He went away by Himself and found private places to be with His Father. So must we.

3> Pray sincerely. God is not interested in formulas. He wants a real relationship and not a plastic performance. He wants to hear from our hearts and not our heads. He wants to hear what we need and must share with Him and not what we think He might want us to say.

4> Pray specifically. It seems that the Lord prayed about real life and real events and people. He still does as “He forever makes intercession on behalf of those being saved” (Hebrews 7:25). So must we or we will find the events and acitvities of life overwhelming as we attempt them in the flesh and without His help and frequent intervention.

So, if you will excuse me, time to go up the mountainside!

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