“And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people” (Matthew 14:19).
Jesus was familiar with a receptive approach to prayer. He spoke Aramaic and the word for prayer in that language is shela (pronounced shalu) and meaning “to open oneself” or “to listen to.” Seen in this way, prayer was the very breath of His life. Turn the pages of the Gospels and notice His appreciation for God’s goodness all around: a gentle breeze, soaring birds, fragrant flowers, freshly ploughed fields, vines laden with grapes, nothing escapes His notice. When a child brought Him a gift of loaves and fish, His immediate response was to lift the little lunch toward heaven and bless it, because He knew that everything good comes from God.
We can be sure that in the long nights Jesus spent praying, He not only talked conversationally with His Father, He also listened. Being lovingly attentive to God was just as much “prayer” as pouring out His heart through the words of a psalm. Thomas Merton described contemplation as “spiritual wonder,” “spontaneous awe at the sacredness of life,” and “gratitude for life.” He refers to it as “a gift of awareness,” “awakening to what is real,” and being “touched by God.” Contemplation is not something we can produce on our own; it is always God’s gift. He is communicating every moment and in each event, the only question is whether we are prepared to notice and respond.
Abba Father, Your wonders continually amaze me, and my heart is filled with praise whenever I stop to appreciate Your creation, and when I pause long enough to listen to Your voice speaking through the smallest breath of wind, the rustling of the trees, the cry of a newborn baby, or the loveliness of singing birds. Thank You, Lord, for making Yourself known to me in even the most ordinary things of life!
–Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 33, Contemplative Prayer by Reg Johnson). This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise “God, from whom all blessings flow!” Thank him for making his blessings available to you in Christ Jesus. Confess that you are spiritually poor in yourself. Commit yourself to gratitude to God for replacing your poverty with all the treasures of “the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3). Ask for a renewed appreciation for this tremendous, gracious exchange.
Pray for those caught in addictions to drugs, sex, self-reliance, etc., to admit that they are powerless to overcome these evils by themselves. Ask God to use you this week to point at least one person to him and his resources.
“Prayer becomes a battleground where we wrestle with what it means to live God’s life in the world.” —Maxie Dunnam
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