St. John Chrysostom said, "Prayer is conversation with God." Clement of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa said much the same thing. Origen distinguished different kinds of prayer and thus wrote:

Supplication is "a petition offered with entreaty by one who needs something; prayer "is offered in a dignified manner with praise concerning matters of importance"; intercession "is a request to God . . . made by one who possesses more than usual confidence"; and thanksgiving "is an acknowledgment that blessings have been obtained from God." That's pretty good.

Greek and Roman prayers were "tit-for-tat" offerings to vague impersonal deities; i.e., I have sacrificed this for you so you should give this back to me. Christian prayer was, and is, radically different. We must understand this essential point if we would make any progress in Christian faith at all. ImagesJeremy Taylor (1613-1667), an Anglican of immense piety wrote two great books, Holy Living and Holy Dying, which have had an impact on people for centuries. Taylor was also a parish minister who knew great difficulty and real grace. He begged his bishop to relocate him because he could not please the Catholics or the Presbyterians in his area of England. Being of a catholic sentiment and generous spirit he found his situation presented to him a grave problem. But he remained faithful to his calling and died in this parish of the fever. Taylor wrote:

There is no greater proof in the world of our spiritual danger than the reluctance which most people always have and all people sometimes have to pray; so weary of the length, so glad when they are done, so clever to excuse and neglect their opportunity. Yet prayer is nothing but desiring God to give us the greatest and best things we can have and that can make us happy. It is a work so easy, so honorable, and to so great a purpose, that (except in the incarnation of His Son) God has never given us a greater argument of His willingness to have us saved and our unwillingness to accept it, of His goodness and our gracelessness, of His infinite condescension and our folly, than by rewarding so easy a duty with such great blessings.

From a different part of the world, in the Church of the West Indies, comes this illustration of real prayer. I find it so helpful.
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, the privilege is ours to share in the loving, healing, reconciling mission of your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, in this age and wherever we are. Since without you we can do no good thing,
May your Spirit make us wise;
May your Spirit guide us;
May your Spirit renew us;
May your Spirit strengthen us;
So that we will be:
Strong in faith,
Discerning in proclamation,
Courageous in witness,
Persistent in good deeds.
This we ask through the name of the Father.

I fear that I know so very little about prayer. I could wish that I had applied myself to it sooner but I am pleading with God for the grace to learn more in my latter years. Make prayer your life's passion.

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  1. Ricky Love February 5, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    John, I’m Brad’s friend who picked you up at his place in Louisville. I wanted to say that I had a great time and really enjoyed the dialogue that night.
    The book that has most impacted my life is Power Through Prayer by E.M. Bounds. It gave me excitement about prayer and provided me with examples of great men in the past. We don’t have many praying examples today. I hope I can be somewhat like those great examples from the past 🙂
    Ricky Love

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