Q: How are we really supposed to approach God in prayer? When it comes to personal prayer, is there at least one right answer, a simple and profound approach that we can renew our minds with?
A: May I begin with a very vulnerable confession? I am not yet satisfied with my personal prayer life. I need to know God more. I want to know God more. I insist on knowing God more. Also, I realize that knowing God more intimately is directly linked to me valuing the personal relationship and privilege that He offers His own to fervently seek His face in prayer.
I recently received a text from a brother in our local church family telling me he was encouraged by a new book he was reading. It was written by a popular, modern pastor. I rejoiced with him and texted my testimony back to him in these words: "All joy. I am reading a book from the early 1900s that has me really pumped!"
Yes, I am indebted to the old classic books — especially the old classics dealing with approaching God in personal prayer. The book I was referring to in my text message is The Path of Prayer written by Samuel Chadwick, Beacon Hill Press, 1931. No doubt, my Loving Lord used two heroes of the faith in my life (both Nazarene elders over 70 years old, James Spruill and Samuel Pickenpaugh) to indirectly but undeniably lead me to the old 1900's prayer book.
I've been swimming in the deep waters of its contents for almost a year now. Yes, I'm wonderfully drowning right now in the eighth chapter, Praying to God Our Father. On page 57, I am getting lots of help and direction for my prayer life. Here is the powerful paragraph that has me pumped up and is helping me know God more as I seek His face in the secret chamber:
To offer a paraphrase, the author suggests that Jesus bases prayer on personal relationships. He taught us to call God "our Father," and knowing that we have been adopted into the family of God changes our understanding of prayer. Whatever difficulties may remain, "communication" must be possible between parent and child. To suggest that a child may not present requests to a parent would be to empty the terms of all meaning. It is a child's right to ask and it is a parent's responsibility to hear in affectionate sympathy and discerning love.
The wonder is not that God hears prayer, but that He is our Father. God would not be Father if His children could not pray.
Wow! What a refreshing reminder. Chadwick's words have set this captive's mindset free once again to simply but profoundly be a child of the Father. With renewed facts, faith, and fervor, my heart joyfully cries out in relational prayer: Abba, Father! (Romans 8:15).
Good News to all of the sons and the daughters of God: We can approach God in prayer as "our Father!" God the Son told us so in Luke 11:1-2. Let us pray!
Kerry W. Willis is vision pastor at Harrisonburg, Virginia, First Church of the Nazarene. He is author of Relational Leadership: What I Learned from a Fisherman about Leading a Church, Beacon Hill Press.
Holiness Today, July/August 2011
Please note: This article was originally published in 2011. All facts, figures, and titles were accurate to the best of our knowledge at that time but may have since changed.