Saturday, November 6, 2010

a'Brakel Is Helping Me Learn to Pray

One of the deepest struggles in my own spiritual life has related to prayer. It seems like everyone around me knows how to pray. Everyone talks about doing it, and in public they offer up the most impressive prayers. And yet in my own prayer life, I have been constantly trapped in a routine of familiar phrases and repetitions bound by duty.

a'Brakel's chapter on prayer in his book A Christian's Reasonable Service has really thrown back the shutters for me, as it were. Specifically, the thing which has helped me so tremendously is his discussion of the true 'essence' of prayer. I'll share what he says, and then tell you why it has been so helpful.
Prayer is the expression of holy desires to God in the name of Christ, which, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, proceed from a regenerated heart, along with the request for the fulfillment of these desires... (his italics)
The next thing which a'Brakel says about prayer is that it focuses itself on three things: (1) himself and his own deficiencies, (2) upon God, who is holy and majestic, and (3) he focuses upon the matters at hand - the desires which he is bringing before the Lord.
In one motion he focuses upon himself, God, and the matter at hand. Being in that disposition, he not only presents himself before God as such, but also gives expression to his desires before the Lord.
In the next section, we find a'Brakel's statements which have so helped me in my prayerlessness.
I therefore refer to prayer as an expression of desires, and not of matters. Man is but an empty vessel who must obtain his fulfillment from elsewhere—from a source external to himself. To that end the Lord has given man the ability to desire and to give expression to his desires. The strength of his desires is proportionate to the measure in which he is sensitive of his deficiency, the magnitude and desirability of the matters which in his judgment could satisfy him, and the probability that they are to be obtained. He endeavors to express these desires accordingly.
If my prayer life is a vehicle, then allow me to say that I have been trying to run my vehicle on completely the wrong fuel. Prayer was never meant to run on duty, but on 'holy desire towards God.' It is simply not possible, according to a'Brakel for us to pray to God in a way which honors God and our holy desires unless those prayers are compelled by holy desire and find their termination in God.
The purpose for which one presents his holy desires is the fulfillment of those desires, beseeching that they be granted.
We pray so that our joy in God may be complete.

Speaking for myself, now, I have not, to the best of my knowledge, been lacking in zeal or love or desire for God. But those desires have not had a true outlet because I have never truly prayed aright until now. The purpose of my prayers is not the fulfillment of a duty. It is, rather, that prayer itself is the means to as well as the end of our desires. Our desire for God was meant to terminate in God Himself, and that termination of our desires is to culminate in the moment of prayer when all of our holy desires and restlessness finds its end and rest in God Himself.

Thanks to God, working through a'Brakel, I finally feel that I can run this engine on what it was meant to be run on this entire time. It's like a mechanic just put his hand on my back and lovingly said, "Son, this is a Prius. Stop putting Diesel in it." Except in this case it was a'Brakel putting his loving and fatherly arm around my shoulders, squeezing me tight, and saying, "Adam, prayer is an expression of holy desires towards God. Stop praying out of duty."

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