One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, “When will the Kingdom of God come?” Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God can’t be detected by visible signs. You won’t be able to say, ‘Here it is!’ or ‘It’s over there!’ For the Kingdom of God is already among you.” – Luke 17:20-21
So Wednesday evenings I meet with one of the men’s covenant groups at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. The principle idea behind the many covenant groups at our church is to provide a framework of commitment, encouragement, and accountability where people can grow as disciples of Jesus as we study scripture, pray, and share our journey.
This week there were thirteen of us, and we talked extensively about prayer. Fact is, the entire experience was prayer. Prayer – according to Christian thinker Richard Foster – is “the avenue to God’s heart.” In other words, prayer is both inflow and outflow between us and God; so the key to the process is less about the correct words and more about keeping a channel open.
I appreciate the way the poet James Montgomery explained prayer in his 1818 hymn. Here are the first two verses:
Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
Unuttered or expressed;
The motion of a hidden fire
That trembles in the breast.
Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
The falling of a tear
The upward glancing of an eye,
When none but God is near.
Our particular focus was how prayer makes an actual, qualitative, difference in our lives. Our conversation begged the question, “what do we mean when we say that our prayer is answered?” And we had to conclude that prayer is essentially answered by virtue of its definition, because if prayer is the communication we have with God, then it achieves its chief end in nurturing the relationship between creature and Creator.
God changes us inasmuch as we are engaged with God, and God effects change in the world as we know and serve God. When Jesus said that the Kingdom is already among us – “in us” according to the NLT, there is a sense in which all of that Kingdom potential is activated – loosed – to the extent that we are in communion with, and in service of, the King of Kings.
For me, photography is one of the ways I pray. Prayer – like a telephoto lens – draws me into God. In these two images a mundane image of a walkway on our church campus (above left) becomes something more beautiful (right) when I simply look more closely.
Prayer is not only the avenue to God’s heart, it draws us in. At least, that’s the promise and the potential. Drawn in to the heart of God.