Do we know how to pray properly? Do we even realize the effectiveness of our prayer?
Thanks to several big budget movies the name CS Lewis is much more familiar to us. He was the author of the widely read children’s books, The Narnia Chronicles. But not many people realize that he wrote much more than that, fiction and nonfiction for adults that deal with issues surrounding the Christian faith. The movie 1993 movie, Shadowlands tells Lewis’ story, focusing in particular on his relationship with his wife, Joy Gresham.
Gresham and Lewis meet while Lewis is a don at Oxford University. It is after Joy Gresham is diagnosed with cancer that the couple marry. The movie bears witness to their love, their pain, their grief, their struggles with faith and God. Eventually Joy dies.
At one point in the story a friend says to Lewis, “Christopher can scoff, Jack, but I know how hard you’ve been praying; and now God is answering your prayers.”
Lewis replies “That’s not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God, it changes me.”
Do we pray hoping that God will change our lives? Do we pray asking for things we have no right to? God is immutable, He does not change, that is what makes Him God. So why then, do we pray?
Too often, our prayer is self-centered rather than God-centered. It becomes all about us, our needs, our wants and our desires, rather than what God wants of us. This is not how we were taught to pray. Saint Paul reminds us that our prayer should not be a litany of our desires but instead should include thanksgiving to God for all that He has done for us, and supplication, a lifting to God of the needs of all. Traditionally our prayer should include four things, adoration, contrition, thanksgiving and supplication (ACTS).
If we truly have the peace of God in our hearts then there is no cause for worry or anxiety. We take all of our problems and give them to the Lord in prayer. We trade our stress and worry for peace of mind.
Paul instead tells us to focus on the positive things of the world; whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. This is the conduct of a person of prayer. It does us no good to dwell upon our faults and failings or the problems of the world, that just leads us back to worry and anxiety.
Finally Saint Paul calls us to action, do what we have learned, and received, and heard, and seen in him. A person of prayer is a person of action and the key to finding peace in a world of stress and distress is not worry but prayer, thinking positively, and doing what is right.