From the pulpit: Prayer transforms way of thinking

My dad tells the story of watching his grandmother sit in a rocking chair beside the open-hearth fire with her Bible on her lap, reading and praying. Every so often, according to Dad, she would cry out a spontaneous word of praise, a spiritual reaction to something she had read or to something revealed to her during her prayers.

My great-grandmother&8217;s devotion to reading scripture and praying were influential in my dad&8217;s life. He speaks often of how she was his primary spiritual influence. And, those initial spiritual stirrings in him were directly connected to his experience of watching Grandma Robinson pray.

Prayer is important to life. Essential, even, to those of faith. Without the discipline of prayer, we would struggle to understand who we are and who we can become. Prayer keeps us grounded and in touch with the realities of the Christian life.

Jesus was aware of the need for prayer, and spoke often to the disciples about prayer. He would observe people praying prayers that were self-congratulatory and meant to bolster their place in the public eye. He would warn his disciples not to be deceived through prayer.

The importance of prayer does not lie in the acknowledgment of our accomplishments or our societal standing. Jesus would see others pleading for God to show mercy and note their humility and brokenness, and he would point out that such a person was a model of prayer.

The importance of prayer comes down to the realization that, in prayer, people are changed. Attitudes are corrected, thoughts restructured.

Hannah Hurnard grew up as a Quaker. She rebelled against the constant barrage of church meetings and Bible readings. Her life was miserable to her. She prayed for direction but never got any. She prayed for answers but never heard any. What she realized was her prayers were centered on God changing. She wrote, &8220;It is not that prayer changes God, or awakens in Him purposes of love and compassion that he has not already felt. No, it changes us, and therein lies its glory and its purpose.&8221;

Prayer is important because God is at work to change us. Correct us. Restructure us. All of us could use a bit more changing, correcting, restructuring. In other words, a bit more praying.

Mark Davenport is pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Alabaster (Cumberland)