I remember the time I asked Jesus into my life.
After hearing a talk about how anyone can ask Jesus to be their friend, I went home and sat on my windowsill in my bedroom. My 7 year old self whispered to Jesus that I wanted him and needed him to be my friend. At that time, I didn’t know really what prayer was, I didn’t know what God’s plan for the world was or if he had one. I was young, but I was hopeful that this prayer would change things, shake my life up and that a relationship with God would overflow out of simple conversation with him.
It’s been many years of what feels like falling in and out of love with prayer, being frustrated with prayers answered in ways that I didn’t expect or feeling like there wasn’t an answer. I see the brokenness of the world and sometimes, I doubt that my prayers will be able to make any difference. But the thing that I always hold onto is that prayer keeps me in relationship with God, and through this personal relationship, I am able to discover how I can take part in God’s mission on earth.
There was something about that still, quiet moment by my window that was different from my everyday life. Throughout Jesus’ lifetime, we see how he took time away from the crowds of people and his everyday ministry to be alone and focus on his relationship with his father.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” Luke 6:12 (NIV)
We see at the beginning of Luke numerous times when Jesus went away from the crowds of people to be alone. Whether on a mountainside or in ‘lonely places’ (Luke 5:16) or ‘a solitary place’ (Luke 4:42) or ‘into the wilderness’ (Luke 4:1). I think there was something about getting out into the silence that meant he stayed in close relationship with God. The places that Jesus went to pray were places that were free from distractions, out of the everyday towns, crowds and action. They probably weren’t very glamorous places but they were places where he could focus on being in relationship with God.
I think Jesus’ time alone with God was key to him being able to live out his mission in Luke 4.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” Luke 4:18-19 (NIV)
His everyday actions were guided by his personal relationship with God, he knew his mission and he didn’t let the pressures of everyday life dictate what he did.
Finding our purpose, our portion of the world in which to have an impact and learning to imitate Jesus can feel pretty difficult when we’re being pulled in so many different directions. When we’re faced with people sleeping rough, gender inequality, farmers not getting fair pay, species extinction, environmental degradation and so many other injustices, we need to pray. Pray to know how to act. Pray to understand God’s heart for restoring this world. Pray to know where your skills can be used to make a difference. Pray to grow closer to following Jesus with your whole life.
That small prayer I prayed as a child took me on an adventure, and so do the prayers that I pray each day when I’m longing to see a different world. Prayer takes me to places I don’t expect and places I never thought I would have the courage to go. Prayer took me to helping friends around me suffering from mental illness, it took me to University to learn about Anthropology, it took me to Bolivia to learn about how the local church is bringing transformation to women affected by domestic violence and it took me to spending time with the struggling single mum at church.
Time spent in prayer takes us into a deep, personal relationship with God which helps us to understand our part in bringing his kingdom to earth. I don’t think I’ll be swapping my cosy armchair by the window for a wilderness any time soon, but I’m enjoying working out where the moments are each day to retreat, be with God and learn how to join in with God’s mission to restore all things.