Practicing Prayer

Challenge Central: a CBC devotional

By: Casey Korstanje

The first time I saw Paul (not the apostle) was when he was marched into the newsroom by the publisher and introduced as our new boss. The editor-in-chief’s office had sat vacant for a while, and frankly, we had seemed to pop along just fine… (ignore that last bit.)

Anyway, Paul smiled and offered a few prepared remarks. The reporters and editors smiled back and asked a few questions. Eventually, Paul went to his office.

The staff quietly returned to their posts amid sardonic murmurs and whispers. My favourite was the old Soviet expression, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

But Paul defied expectations. He was an excellent boss. Smart, supportive, not quick to judge. Rather than your usual aggressive type-A personality, he was shy and self-effacing.

He had a tendency to stay in his office. And most of the staff were happy to let him be.

But I wanted to get to know him.

I knocked on his door one day, walked in and introduced myself as his world news editor. I then pressed him a little on more personal things, had he found a place to live yet, thoughts about the paper going forward.

And I kept on greeting him as he arrived for work, remarking on one thing or another. Offering unsolicited commentary on this story or that. Slowly, I got to know him, and he, me.

He was a patron of the arts, I learned. In his heart he wanted to be a painter who pushed the boundaries.

A story came across my desk about the Canadian government paying $6 million for a painting that, to me, looked like someone had used a paint roller to make two stripes on a large canvas. I couldn’t wait for Paul to arrive. I was going to make fun of the painting, and I knew he would defend it. He knew my history at the paper and we discussed (debated really) the reality of God and Christianity.

For many of my colleagues, he was an enigma. Certainly they executed his vision for the paper, did what they were asked to do, and did it well. But they didn’t know him. They knew who he was, they knew his authority, they supported his ideas, but their relationship never got beyond a nodding acquaintance.

In Matthew there is a harrowing passage at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. It concerns the day of judgment. Matt 7:[22] “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ [23] And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (ESV)

Let me state up front, if you have turned to Jesus Christ, repented of your sin and received Him as Lord and Saviour, you are not in danger of this passage. He knows you.

But how well do you know Him?

I fell to talking with a Christian friend the other day about his spiritual life. We discussed the books he was reading and his approach to Scripture. All wonderful and worthy things. Better than mine. I then asked about prayer, and he paused for a minute and admitted it was an area he perhaps needed to work on.

That has certainly been the case for me over my life.

I then, haltingly, described my own approach to prayer as perhaps a starting point for him. I reminded him that this was certainly not the only way to pray, just that it was my way.

I have come to realize that even though you’ve been introduced to the Lord, agree with His commands, and you are trying to be a good servant, it might be a good idea to go knock on His office door and strike up a conversation, begin to nurture a friendship.

So this is what I told my friend about prayer. If it is helpful for you, great. If not, do try something else.

First, I said I determined I needed to be resolute in practice, that I must do this every day, whether I feel like it or not.

I begin by reading a short passage of Scripture for meditation. This seems to engage the heart and mind in preparation for prayer.

Then I pray the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6 – the traditional version which ends with ‘For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever. Amen.’), which I have discovered has the remarkable capacity of quickly focusing your thoughts and bringing to mind those things which require an accounting before God, often with repentance.

Then, I try to have an honest discussion with the Lord. I often ask the Holy Spirit’s assistance here to help me be completely truthful and open and to resist the temptation to make excuses or fudge things. I also ask for solutions and guidance and often help.

After this sometimes-fearful attempt to bare the soul, I move on to my petitions. When I tell someone, “I will pray for you,” this is when I do it, along with my prayers for the concerns, salvation, health, etc. of others.

I conclude by trying to enter into a period of silent communion and worship, again with the Holy Spirit’s help. “Please, Lord, open the eyes and ears of my soul that I may see and hear you.”

There is a passage in Jeremiah that carries a staggering promise: Jer 33: [2] “Thus says the LORD who made the earth, the LORD who formed it to establish it— the LORD is his name: [3] Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. (ESV)

Just imagine!

In Philippians, Paul outlines the desire of his heart regarding Jesus. Phil 3: [10] “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection…” (ESV)

Yes, exactly, that’s the point. “That we may know Him.”

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