The Overwhelming Privilege of Prayer

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Dave Acree is the EFCC’s Prayer and Spiritual Life Catalyst. This regular column on prayer is designed to accompany the Prayer Calendar.


Last week I was in Istanbul, Turkey standing outside the Hagia Sophia (church/mosque/museum) watching as the imam sang into the microphone the call to prayer. It was picked up by the surrounding mosques until it was a wail across the area. I then walked several hundred meters to the Blue Mosque and observed those of the Muslim faith kneeling with forehead to the ground praying. While for many it was probably an act of devotion, being one of the five pillars of their faith, it also acted as “coinage” in purchasing salvation.  Allah is a pretty distant god with little grace to offer.

A couple of days later in Cappadocia I watched as the “whirling dervishes” (a mystical sect of Islam) “prayed” in a whirling dance where with closed eyes they fell into a trance-like state entering another existence in unity with the world around and “god.” I’m not sure what that was all about but it didn’t feel right.

And then home to Canada to an Angus Reid survey of Canadians and prayer, carried out in March of this year: 20% pray daily; 10% several times a week; and 5% about once a week. 32% never pray and 15% hardly ever. The remaining 19% pray a handful of times or less a month.

What I found interesting was, those who pray daily mostly pray out of gratitude and thanksgiving to God. The rest who pray do so to ask God for something. The more you pray the more thankful you are for what God has already done; the less you pray the more you want God to do.

For us, prayer doesn’t provide leverage for our salvation. There should not be a sense of entitlement in our prayer — that God owes us something or must give us what we ask for. Prayer should be more than a series of perfunctory requests punctuating our days. It should be a time of relational conversation.

I have always been overwhelmed by the privilege of prayer. It’s not just a time to presume upon God’s generosity. Think about it! The Lord of the universe, our Saviour and King, invites us to come running into his throne room, without appointment, and says, “Let’s talk.” I’m never gotten over that and hope I never do! And I hope you don’t either.

Why, then, don’t we take advantage of the privilege more often than we do?