Over the past several weeks we’ve been looking at the spiritual disciplines – or the Healthy Habits – that Christians have been practicing for centuries in order to help them develop and maintain a close relationship with God. Things like Bible reading, prayer, worship, fasting, times of silence and solitude, giving, serving – all those that we do (not because they earn us salvation or forgiveness or favour with God) but because these are the things that help us know God and to hear his voice and to become more like His Son Jesus. In other words, these are the things that help us remain in Him and He, in us – like it says in John 15:5…
“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. ” John 15:5
All of these spiritual disciplines or as we’ve called them – these “Healthy Habits” – are tools that help us remain in Him. They help us stay close to and connected with Jesus – who is the source of our life, our joy, our peace, our love – everything. Apart from Him, we’d have none of that. We’d be like a branch that has been broken off from the tree, that just withers up and becomes dry and brittle. We don’t want to be like that. We want to have His life flowing through us so that we can produce fruit and lots of it!
And so these healthy habits are exactly how we do that.
Last week we talked about the purpose of prayer. And we discovered that praying really isn’t about getting answers to our prayers. Prayer isn’t like popping coins into a cosmic vending machine – where we put the prayers in and expect the answers out.
Prayer doesn’t work that way – and if you expect it to – you’ll undoubtedly be disappointed in prayer. Prayer isn’t so much about changing your situation – it’s more about changing you.
Now God certainly may change your situation – but at the same time, He may not. But when we go to God in prayer, and we tell him our concerns and our issues and we make our requests – and then when we leave that all with Him and just trust Him to do whatever it is that He knows is best, that changes us. It grows our faith and our trust in Him. As we see how He answers (either yes or no), we learn to see things from His perspective. We see his goodness and his faithfulness and his wisdom and his sovereignty. And as we see all that, God works within us to change us from the inside out. Richard Foster writes…
“To pray is to change. Prayer is the central avenue that God uses to transform us…. In prayer we learn to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to do the things He wills.”
Richard Foster ~ Celebration of Disciplines.
That’s the purpose of prayer. It’s not just a way of giving God our grocery list of things we want Him to do for us, but it’s how God changes us to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ.
A great example of this I think, is King David. Probably most of you know how the Bible describes King David as a man after God’s own heart. Well, these past couple of weeks as I’ve been studying up on prayer, I’ve come to the conclusion that David’s prayer life probably had everything to do with that!
As I read through the Psalms and as I read through the story of David’s life – I can’t help but notice how David was always praying! And if this statement by Richard Foster is true, then it’s no wonder that David was known as a man after God’s own heart – because if prayer had taught him to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things God desires, to love the things God loves, to do the things God wills – well, that sure sounds like the definition of a “man after God’s own heart”, doesn’t it?
So today, I want to share with you just a quick example from the life of David of how he made prayer his healthy habit – how his relationship with God was shaped by prayer – how through that, He himself was shaped by prayer. And hopefully, along the way, I can point out a few practical tidbits of how we can develop this lifestyle of prayer as well.