By Ed Gallagher
When you listen to public prayers, what do you hear? A speech? A manufactured succession of words? A predictable sequence of clichés? Or do you hear a heartfelt conversation with God?
Fortunately, God respects all sincere prayers. The Spirit can improve and empower even poorly-offered prayers (see Romans 8:26-27). Yet how refreshing it is to hear heartfelt, high-impact prayer offered in God’s presence to a loved and respected Friend. Such prayer is never merely intellectual. It always carries a degree of Spirit-inspired emotion. The praying one knows the love of God and responds with awe and affection.
This is prayer as communion, a word that conveys five elements: intimacy, fellowship, participation, sharing and communication. Together these comprise an intimate sharing in God’s actual life as well as in the spiritual experience of fellow believers. Octavius Winslow in his classic work, The Precious Things of God, describes true prayer as having “all space filled and occupied” by God. How fantastic! When I engage in prayer as communion, all space around me and between my God and me is filled and occupied by the Spirit of God and with all that the Spirit embraces—including people around me needing the Savior.
Undoubtedly Paul envisioned this experience when saying that the Spirit inspires us to pray, “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Paul also instructs us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions” (Ephesians 6:18). Is your prayer “in the Spirit”? Not manufactured words but Spirit-generated communion? How can that happen for us? My advice is to seek a stronger foundation in Scripture in our prayers. Then God will progressively provide the experience we desire and request.
A parallel subject to prayer is the Lord’s Supper, represented through the Greek word koinonia. It calls for fellowship, partnership, participation and communication with God and fellow believers (see 1 Corinthians 10:16). The point of Holy Communion is that eternal life is not merely a matter of studying and knowing. It is “eating and drinking” the body and blood of the Savior. By faith we enter the Upper Room with Christ and His disciples, partaking of Him as our Passover sacrifice, letting His life become our life. Jesus in John 6:53-56 expresses this experience in startling terms. From such communion with Christ springs powerful prayer, both for personal living and in worshiping together.
Republished from the March 2006 issue of Outlook magazine.