Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
There are two ways to approach the subject of commitment to prayer. The first is the general admonition to pray always, to keep an active prayer going in your mind and heart for as long as you can during your waking hours.
But within the topic of the mechanics of prayer, I treat commitment differently. What I mean by commitment to prayer is the guidance that if you want your prayer to work, you have to be committed to praying that prayer for as long as it takes to receive an answer. Hour after hour, day after day, month after month.
To recap, briefly, what I’ve written on the mechanics so far: my definition of prayer is the act of bringing an idea into reality. This is to say that for me prayer is very, very real, and it deals, in turn, with very real things. Not to say that prayer can’t be an amorphous musing of thanks and awe, certainly it can be. But prayers of general adoration or even the spewed expressions of anguish don’t really need to have their mechanics delineated, now do they? Some communications just need to be what they are — a means of connecting.
So, what I am addressing are those prayers that constitute a concrete asking from God for something that we want to create in our or another’s lives. To repeat myself, the first rule is to tell the truth. Praying for something that you only think you want (but don’t really) is only going to result in sore knees and an aching back. But telling the truth isn’t that simple: you must want what you are praying for in your thoughts and feelings, and you must be willing to do whatever it takes to bring that want into reality.
And the first act that a person must assume when committing to a prayer is just that — commitment to the prayer itself.
Prayer is not for the faint-hearted. Instead, it can be very much like deciding to cross a desert whose dimensions are unknown and whose boundary with the rest of the world is even less known. It is the ultimate act of faith to commit to the belief that your prayer will be answered and then act on this belief. It is the stepping off the edge of the infinite chasm that separates us from God, and knowing that everything will be all right.
Now it may seem obvious, if not redundant, to say that commitment is a necessary element of prayer. But there is more to commitment to prayer than the everyday idea of commitment: when it’s convenient, as I feel like it, and the like.
To commit to a prayer is to commit to your active relationship with God, and this is not a relationship that can have its rough edges smoothed with a bouquet of flowers or a dinner out. If you want God to take you seriously, then, well, this part really is obvious: you have to take God seriously.
Prayer is, after all, the vehicle of the Holy Spirit to work within us and through us. Our prayer is merely the means of directing the work of the Holy Spirit. And this is a very great responsibility on our part. No half-measures will do.
Turning our want over to God is the taking of his hand, and our commitment to our prayer is our keeping hold of that hand no matter what. It’s as though we were the child and God the parent, and we must, joined together, make it through a very crowded open-air market. Everything there and then will exert its pressure on you to separate. Temptations to let go will abound. There may even arise doubts as to the use of holding on — we are big boys and girls, we can make it on our own after all.
We keep hold of God — we keep our commitment to our prayer — because it is God who will show us the way. It is God, and only God, who knows the truth about the prayer that we place before him. It is God, and only God, that can give us our true life that is expressed, in part, in the prayer that we have taken up.
The question, then, is how much can we accomplish through prayer? The Bible tells us that there is nothing that God cannot do. I have experienced some rather remarkable, if not downright head-turning, results to prayer, and yet I know that this represents almost nothing to God — that what I have glimpsed of God is less than a bit of a piece of a crumb underneath his fingernail.
How, then, do we expand our hearts and minds enough so that our understanding of God can also be expanded?
How do we discover how to pray for that which God wants us to pray?
I guess it’s all up to patience, willingness, and commitment.