Life With God 1: Prayer as Communion (bonus content)


What is experiencing life with God really like? Does that mean spending a few minutes a day reading my Bible, or does it mean something more? To see what experiencing God looks like, once again we can look to Jesus, for he showed us how it is done. In John 5:19, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does”(John 5:19). Later, in chapter 14 of John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.  Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do” (John 14:10-11). Jesus here is speaking of a deep relational intimacy between him and his Father, but this still does not tell us how that intimacy happened.

Prayer & Stars by greg-rakozy-38802-unsplash.jpg
Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

To get at that we need to look at the way that Jesus prayed. In Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, he said that …Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer. (Luke 5:16). Sometimes Jesus would spend all night in prayer with his Father, especially when big decisions needed to be made like who to call to be Jesus’ disciples and whether or not to go to the cross. But there is something else going on in Jesus’ prayer life besides the time and duration. For Jesus, prayer was more than just communication with his Father, prayer was also communion with his Father and Jesus was able to be in prayerful communion with his Father when he walked and taught and went about his daily life.

We see hints of prayer as communion in the prayer that Jesus taught to his followers. Picking up the story in Luke 11, we read:

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:

“Father,

Dear God, you are my Father for you created me, you redeemed me and you and your love are always with me.

may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon.

Dear Father, may I and others see your infinite value and treasure you for who you are. May you be the most important thing in our lives by far and may we treasure your name, for it represents you, and may we also treasure life in your kingdom because that is life with you.

Give us each day the food we need,

Father, in your great love for me, you provide for me and protect me, so I never need to be anxious or afraid.

and forgive us our sins,
    as we forgive those who sin against us.

Thank you, Father, for loving me so much that you gave your one and only Son to die for me so that I would not perish but eternal life with you. Because of what you and Jesus have done, there is now no condemnation for me. I can live in freedom and peace with you.

And don’t let us yield to temptation.” (Luke 11:1-4)

O loving Father, there will be times when I will be tempted, but I know that those temptations do not come from you. I also know that you will provide a way out from the temptations I face. For you love me and you are always with me.

Dear God, there is nothing better than life with you.

What Jesus was teaching us by his example was living life on two levels. At one level, we are engaged with the world around us—talking, listening, and doing things—but at a deeper level we experience a constant communion with God. And the things that happen at that deeper level are the driving force for everything else that happens in our life. Jesus lived life on two levels and his quiet times of prayer in the wilderness was when the two levels would become one.

Now you may think to yourself, “That is impossible for me! Jesus may have been able to do it, but I certainly cannot.” At this point, I would say that you can live life on two levels and let me show you how you are likely already doing it. Have you ever had the experience of engaging in an activity or carrying on a conversation with someone while, at the same time, worrying about something else? If you walk and worry at the same time, then you can live life on two levels. The key is to change your treasure from whatever it is now and making God your treasure. Then, knowing that you are united with God because of Jesus, you can use that back-of-mind function for communion with God instead of worrying about other things.

In his book With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God, Skye Jethani describes an interview CBS anchor Dan Rather conducted with Mother Teresa in the 1980s.

[Rather] asked her, ‘When you pray, what do you say to God?’

‘I don’t say anything,’ she replied. ‘I listen.’

‘Okay,’ Rather said, taking another shot at it. ‘When God speaks to you, then, what does he say?’

‘He doesn’t say anything. He listens.’

Rather didn’t know how to continue. He was baffled.

‘And if you don’t understand that,’ Mother Teresa added, ‘I can’t explain it to you.’[1]

Jethani continues, “This communion view of prayer is what Paul meant when he commanded Christians to ‘pray without ceasing.’ [1 Thess. 5:17] Paul was calling us to live as Jesus did—in constant connection with God even when no words are exchanged. This is made possible by the presence of God’s Spirit within us.”[2]

It is the Holy Spirit, who lives within us, prays with and for us when words are neither needed nor adequate. Prayer as communion enables us to experience Life With God throughout our life each day.

Endnotes:

[1] Skye Jethani, With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 114.

[2] Jethani, 114.

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