Imagine with me you are in a public place. It’s familiar, one that you’ve been to many times before, and because it’s familiar, you know your way around. The smells, the sights, the people – this is part of your routine. So you saunter around before walking up on a couple of people – people you know and you trust – and seek to join a conversation already in process. Their backs are turned to you, but as you walk up, you clearly hear your name, and you have no doubt that you have stumbled upon a conversation that is not only already happening, but one in which you are the subject being discussed.
What do you do? Immediately divert your course? Jump in and play it off like it’s no big deal? Stand there quietly to see if you can glean just what’s being said?
Most of us, I think, would assume the conversation that we have come upon is negative in nature, that these people who we know and trust are disparaging us to each other. That they have picked up on some fault or personality defect or annoying tendency and they are retelling their personal experiences with us involving that “thing.” If that’s the case, then coming upon a conversation like this in a familiar place is the kind of stuff that counseling sessions and deep bitterness is built on.
Of course, if you found people not talking through your faults and laughing at your expense but instead were talking about ways to encourage you, considering how to uphold you in the midst of struggle, and extolling their mutual love for you. That changes things dramatically when you consider that there just might be people who love you and are committed to you enough to have a positive conversation about you.
And so we come to subject of prayer. What do the two subjects have to do with one another?
Prayer – amazingly, gloriously – is when we join a conversation already in progress.
When we hit our knees and approach the throne of grace, we astonishingly find that we are not waiting in a line like it’s some cosmic DMV for our number to be called, but instead are joining the Son and the Spirit who are, at a given moment talking to the Father about and for us.
Behold the Son who prays: “Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
Behold the Spirit who prays: “In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings” (Romans 8:26).
So many times when we pray, or at least when I do, we feel alone. We take in the quietness of the moment and don’t know exactly where to begin. All our acrostics and resolutions fail us and we feel a sense of defeat at our lack of focus. Lack of resolve. Lack of articulation.
Take heart today, Christian. Be lifted up, believer. Especially if you, like me, so many times come to prayer and feel as though you fumble through platitudes and misguided requests, unable to diagnose the true condition of your own heart. When we come to pray, we can know we are not there alone. We are walking up to a conversation in which the Son of God and the Spirit of God are already talking about us.