This is part 3 of a series based on the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.
In my opinion, prayer seems to be the most common (and yet still misunderstood) of the spiritual disciplines. Many of us learn to pray at a young age when we go to bed and before meals. The prayers I learned early were memorized, and I can still recite one! As we get older, we begin having conversations with God. Some of these early "conversation" prayers may be the best we'll pray for years. Why? Because children often trust that what they ask will be granted, more so than adults. Foster offers a great example of a child asking their parent for a sandwich. The child trusts that there will be a sandwich any time they want one, and doesn't worry about packing food away for a day when the sandwich won't come. Foster explains that many children present their requests to God with the same faith that God will take care of it if they ask.
As adults, we often struggle with this kind of request/expectational prayer- fearing that we, as imperfect beings, don't have the right to expect something of God. Well, to put summarize Foster's point, what's the point in praying if you don't want something bad enough to believe that it will be granted? At the beginning of the chapter on prayer, Foster gives a great quote about prayer: "In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God's throughs after him, to desire the things he desires, to love the things he loves, to will the things he wills." (Foster, p.33) In essence, Foster argues that as we begin to pray correctly, it is not God's will conforming to our requests, but rather our being more in tune with the will of God causes our requests to fit into God's will and plan.
Still, Foster argues, there is a time for a prayer recognizing that sometimes we do not fully understand the workings of God. Christ understood this when he prayed in the Garden (Matthew 26:39). In order to avoid constantly praying about things that your will doesn't agree with God's, Foster suggests that intercessory prayer should only be used when you feel deeply moved by the topic- he argues that the reason you may be moved is that you are being called to pursue God's help in the situation.
I cannot begin to summarize the chapter, instead, I would suggest reading the book for yourself. But I'll conclude with a quote Foster gives: " Listening to the Lord is the first thing, the second thing, and the third thing neceessary for successful intercession." (Foster, p. 39)
Read part 1- Introduction Read part 2- Meditation