To the human soul, the fruit and ultimate end of a life of prayer is transformation in love. In prayer, as Scripture informs us, we increasingly transformed into the very likeness of the one in whose image we were created. And Scripture is very clear about the nature of this image.
He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. (1 John 4:8)
God also speaks very clearly about His intention for creating each of us.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)
Perhaps the best Scripture verse on the effect of prayer on the human person is this one from 2 Corinthians:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
This accurately describes the effects of an active prayer life, but what about our daily prayer sessions? What might we hope to experience as a result of our consistently engaging in prayer?
After all, it is not likely we will see the evidence of this transformation in glory revealed to us daily. The best way for us to see progress in our prayer and spiritual life is to look backward over a long period of time. This is the best way for us to be able to identify our progress.
So, what are the best circumstances for making this progress in our daily prayer sessions? And, perhaps more importantly, how can we be confident we have prayed well? What is the experience of knowing we have entered into the process of transformation through our prayer?
We can actually look to Jesus’ own words to the Apostles to find the answer.
And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. (Mark 6:31)
This advice to His Apostles is not surprising it is exactly what Jesus Himself must have experienced when He entered into prayer with His Father.
We all desire to eliminate anxiety, fear and worry from our life, and to find and experience rest. Think about it, is this not true for you? But do we know how to seek this rest and peace in our own life, do we have a routine for doing this? Even if we take the time to pray, do we experience Jesus’ promise of rest?
For this to be true, we must learn how to enter into the rest and peace that Christ promised would be ours in prayer. In fact, this rest must be the end point of all our daily prayer, we should desire it and pursue it with great expectation and hope.
Rest in this context does not mean drowsy sleep or lying back on a beach – as pleasant as that might be. Instead, it means that we come to experience Christ lifting our daily burdens from us.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
But again, how do we get ourselves to this place of rest? There are two images that can be helpful in our learning how to enter into this rest. They are images we might consider reaching by the end of each of our daily sessions in prayer.
The first is of a Child simply resting in the arms of their parent.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)
The second might be of the image presented in the Gospel of John, where the disciple is seen reclining on the bosom of Jesus during the Last Supper.
One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; (John 13:23)
We adults are not easily drawn to adopt these images of vulnerability, we prefer to just tell the Lord what we need in frank terms and then hope He will respond. But the fact is, Christ made clear what He most wants us to receive from our efforts at prayer.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)
We will know we are advancing in prayer when we begin to desire to find rest in our prayer, and this happens when we allow ourselves to become like little children in our Father’s arms.
We might all pray this week to find and experience the gentle humility to rest in our Father’s arms.
Copyright © Mark Danis