One of my favorite descriptions of prayer is hidden in C.S. Lewis’ The Magician’s Nephew. Polly and Digory have been sent on a mission for Aslan only to realize part way through their journey that they forgot to bring food.
Polly and Digory stared at one another in dismay.
“Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,” said Digory.
“I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,” said Fledge.
“Wouldn’t he know without being asked?” said Polly.
“I’ve no doubt he would,” said the Horse (still with his mouth full). “But I’ve got a sort of idea he likes to be asked.”
He likes to be asked.
A few months ago, a fellow student off-handedly commented to me, “life happens without prayer.” He said it a bit guiltily, as if prayer was something he knew as Christian he should be working on, but just hadn’t had the time to get around to it yet. But his question was real, even if it’s one we might not be brave enough to speak. Why does prayer matter if life happens anyway?
In Polly’s words, why bother to ask if Aslan has already thought of it?
In one sense, the student was right. Life might appear to be the same — the sun comes up, we leave for work, go about our day, fall into bed at night only to realize prayer never made it onto the agenda for the day. “Oh well,” we think. “I’ll do it tomorrow.”
But in God’s sovereignty, life — spiritual life — cannot happen without prayer.
My friend’s comment made me think. What would my life look like devoid of prayer? Would it look much different?
I could not exist without it. I’m discovering more and more that a lack of prayer is spiritual death. I might, only by God’s common mercy, survive from a physical standpoint without it. But true life, spiritual life, comes from fellowship with God.
It’s our lifeline in times of difficulty.
It’s our source of strength.
It’s our satisfaction and greatest joy.
It’s our means of guidance.
And ultimately — it’s the privilege of spending time in God’s presence. Our spiritual health absolutely depends upon an active relationship with God.
But prayer doesn’t have to be relegated only to our “spiritual” lives (if such a distinction can even be made). In other words, nowhere in scripture are we commanded to keep our prayers to “Lord, help me become more holy.” “Forgive me for my sins.” “Help me to know Christ better.” Don’t get me wrong, these are crucial prayers, and this is exactly what our hearts will desire as we grow as believers. If our prayers never mention spiritual things, we are blind to the most important battle raging for our hearts. But it is very possible for us to fall on the other side of the ditch and fail to ask God to provide lunch. Or health. Or a spouse.
In other words, I have begun to see prayer as the time to dream again. I’m learning to repent of cynicism (masked in religious-sounding prayers) and start asking God both for the big things that seem impossible and the small, everyday things of life. “Lord, how should I schedule my time this week?” “Would you help my friend’s baby sleep through the night?”
Yes, our God knows our needs. But His desire is to know us, to fellowship with us, not merely provide our needs. He has ordained that the way we do that is to ask. It’s simple. It doesn’t require a lot of education. But it does take a whole lot of faith.
What are you asking for?
P.S. If these are things you’ve been thinking about, I would highly recommend Paul Miller’s The Praying Life. It wrecked my view of prayer and has started me on a whole new journey of learning to pray with renewed faith.