pray until you pray

My son George Jr. just got back from a college prayer retreat. When asked, “How did it go?” he lit up like a 4th of July fireworks display. “Pastor Al Baker told us the greatest thing ever.” “Ever?” I was quick to clarify. “What was it?” “He directed us to pray until you pray.” And you know what, as soon as George Jr. said it, I got it. The point was crystal clear, and its implications have since revolutionized my prayer life.

The continuous hum of busy lives not only drowns out all quietness but also our ability to think. We desperately need an escape hatch through which we can press mute on the day’s clamor. Once my son uttered, “Pray until you pray,” I began picturing myself (this is the initial “prayer” part) entering Solomon’s Temple, being more or less confined to the outer courtyard, at least at first. But then there comes a definitive point, similar to the hinge of a door that swings wide open when the inner veil peels apart ever so slightly that the actual “prayer” begins. Interestingly enough, I’ve discovered the more I mutter to myself, “Pray until you pray,” the quicker it comes, especially when I simultaneously envision Isaiah 6 and Psalm 24.
Praying with Full Access

In ancient times, the High Priest was the only person allowed to enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement (also known as Yom Kippur). During this ritual, he sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial goat on the Mercy Seat. There was a second goat, called the “scapegoat,” on which the High Priest placed his hands, symbolically transferring the sins of Israel onto its head. After this ceremony, the scapegoat was sent into the wilderness, never to return again, just like the confessed sins of God’s people. The goat was ominously marked with a scarlet ribbon tied to its horns as a reminder of its role in this solemn ritual.

It amazes me that every follower of Jesus has the same access to God that was granted to the High Priest in ancient times, not just once a year, but constantly! In the past, people were only allowed to approach a monarch’s presence if the king extended his royal scepter (as seen in the story of Queen Esther). Otherwise, they would be killed. However, Christ is the Royal Scepter that the Father lovingly extends to those who love Him. As a result, we not only have permission to enter God’s presence, but we can do so boldly, with confidence based on the merits of Christ. “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.” (Heb. 6:19)

Prayers of Relinquishment

I’ve also started offering up prayers of relinquishment lately, which means surrendering my will to God’s will, or stated differently, Thy will be done, not mine. It’s like waving white flags of abandon rather than rattling off my wish list or “Lord here’s what I want you to do for me” agenda. As Sadhu Singh, a Christian from India, prayed earnestly after his costly conversion to Christ, I used to ask for specific things. Now I ask only for God. I feel the same.

During one of John Wesley’s Atlantic crossings (Wesley helped found the Methodist Church), a fierce storm broke out, tossing the ship around. While Wesley and others hid in their bunks, a community of Moravian Christians, traveling to their new home, calmly gathered to hold their daily worship service and sing praises to Jesus. Watching the Moravians, so peaceful in the face of the tempest, Wesley realized he was witnessing a truly waterproof faith. What made those Moravians so calm in the storm? It appears to me that they resigned their fate entirely to the Almighty, preferring instead to ask only for God.

Homework for Today

During your next quiet time, remember that the key is to KEEP praying until you START praying, no matter how long it takes. This can be difficult in our task-oriented world, but it’s important to persevere. Now what exactly that looks like for you I have no idea, but there is a definitive way to find out: start doing it. Here’s a question to motivate you: Why settle for general admission or being relegated to the lobby when a backstage pass with your Creator is there for the asking?

Jesus said, for those who have ears to hear, let them hear.


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