Watchman Nee, a Chinese Christian martyred for his faith, was asked what it was like to be a Christian. He said it was like having two dogs fighting inside of him. When the other person asked which dog was winning, Nee said, “Whichever one I feed the most.”
Jesus said strange things about ‘eating His flesh’ and ‘drinking His blood’ as metaphors for relying on Him for our very lives. He also said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:4)
Oddly enough, the Word of God written (the Bible) has a way of nourishing the Word of God living (Jesus). That is, the saving power of Lord Jesus Christ who lives in the hearts of His people seems to increase in strength as we spend time ‘feeding’ on Him. We do that by reading the Bible and prayer, putting our focus on Him. In that process, our spiritual lives thrive. If these spiritual disciplines are neglected, then that other ‘dog’ begins to take control.
When the disciples observed Jesus in prayer, they realized that His spiritual life was superior to theirs and put the two together. They wanted to know how to pray . . .
“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ ” (Luke 11:1)
The New Testament way of praying is not the same as how most people pray. We tend to bring God our complaints or our list of ‘I wants.’ In contrast, the examples in the Bible include worship, requests concerning His kingdom, asking for forgiveness of sin, thanksgiving, and declarations of who God is and what He alone can do. Prayer can include lament, even complaining (see the Psalms) but those are given in an expression of faith that God is in charge and cares about those needs also.
I’ve noticed that prayer makes me more aware of His presence and opens my head and heart to His way of thinking. The Bible says that the more I think like Him, the more like Jesus I become. That means prayer does as much or more to change me as it does to answer my requests.
Prayer is a humble activity. By it I am expressing that I know God is greater and more powerful, and that I need Him. The danger of not praying is that when I slack off, it usually means I do not feel needy — but that is a total delusion. Besides, if I am not spending time with God, I miss out on the marvel of seeing Him answer my prayers. I also miss the experience of Him changing my life as I pray.
The disciples were wise to ask Jesus to teach them to pray. At the time, they probably didn’t realize what prayer would do, but history shows that these men learned to pray, then went out into the world sharing what He told them as they prayed. Because of their intimacy with God, the world has never been the same!