One of the greatest gifts of the Christian faith is prayer. The great reformer Martin Luther described prayer as the very lifeblood of the Christian faith,
“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
Perhaps the most amazing aspect of prayer is that we can communicate with God at any time, in any place, in any situation. We don’t have to wait to pray until we walk through the doors of the church. We don’t have to wait until we’re in bed at the end of a long day to talk to God. If you have the ability to think, you can pray.
As a result of this freedom to pray, wherever, whenever, and however, I have noticed a lack of intentionality and an increase in flippancy in my prayer life. As I began to pray more at random times throughout the day, I noticed I was neglecting extended quiet times of prayer. I needed balance; I needed both, not just one of the other. By the grace of God, I became aware of this and I decided to recommit myself to be more intentional about my prayer life.
As a result of this desire to be more intentional in my prayer life, I decided to set aside time to pray each night before I went to bed. Every night, (ok not every night, but most nights) before I went to bed, I would walk up to the peaceful prayer room at the university I attend; I would pray and read the Psalms. It was therapeutic and helped me refocus on God before I slept. After God had helped me develop this habit, I noticed God was drawing me back to the prayer room, not just in the evening, but during the day, especially during difficult times. I will never forget one particularly difficult day God called me into the prayer room.
It was one of those days where everything seemed awful and I was completely overwhelmed by all aspects of life. Physically walking and emotionally dragging myself into the prayer room, I plopped down on the bench in the back of the plush, carpeted room and faced the large wooden cross erected on the far side. With turmoil in my heart, I sat there for a few moments, looking at the cross of Jesus Christ, with two things running through my head.
Why do some days have to be so bad?
How is this a part of God’s plan for me to feel this way?
At the peak of my wallowing and questioning, I again looked in the direction of the cross. This time I could sense a new feeling wiggling its way into my heart and mind. I felt like something inside of me was summoning me to the cross, I felt like something inside of me was telling me to get up off the bench and lay down on the carpet in front of the cross.
At first I bristled and thought that was way too charismatic for me. I don’t have to do that to meet with God. Again, the feeling, stronger than before, washed over me, and I became convinced that God was calling me to lay my burdened soul at the foot of the cross, literally. Begrudgingly, I got up, took a few steps towards the cross, stooped down, lay on my stomach, folded my hands and began to pray.
I was honest with God. I told Him I was lost without Him. I told Him that I needed His help to get my emotions under control; I needed His help all day, every day, to live my life for Him. As I prayed, I submitted and humbled myself to God, and the peace that passes all understanding, spoken of in Philippians 4:7 began to wash over me. Like a lake, placid after a tumultuous storm, my overwhelmed heart was stilled as I gave my burdens up to God and focused on His provision and love for me, instead of my own problems.
“In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence” Hebrews 5:7
What is reverence?
In this passage, the author of Hebrews specifically states that Jesus was heard because of His reverence. Reverence is important because it was the key to the prayers of Jesus being heard, so what is it?
Reverence is more than just a feeling. Having reverence for God is about showing, by our actions, that we revere God.
Reading Hebrews 5:7, I can picture Jesus, as a man, weeping, lying prostrate on the ground, crying out to God in prayer. This kind of behavior while in prayer led to God hearing the prayers of his son. Why? Jesus showed reverence to God not only in His thoughts but also His actions. Jesus knew the importance of showing reverence to His Father through his body language and posture in prayer and God heard Him because of it. Jesus didn’t behave this way to put on a show for onlookers; He did it to set an example for the Christians who would follow in his footsteps. He did it because he meant it.
I realized that it’s not just about revering God in my heart and soul, it’s about showing reverence to the Lord in my body language and posture, like Jesus did. My actions should reflect what’s already inside my heart. I am already under God’s authority whether I live like it or not. I cannot usurp His authority so why not embrace the position I was made for? If Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, thought it necessary to show reverence to his Father in both his thoughts and actions, how much more important is it for me, a terrible sinner, to follow in his footsteps?
Suddenly, the words of Matthew 23:12 made sense to me,
“Whoever exalts themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted”
When I make the choice to take my rightful place, humble myself, and show reverence in my body language and my thoughts, when I admit to God that I am totally lost and incapable of anything good apart from Him, that is exactly the moment I find peace and security I long for. The moment I stop trying to be self-sufficient and rely on my human will, I truly gain the freedom I yearn for, freedom from myself.