What is Prayer?
They say God can use anything. Well, He used graduate school to teach me how to pray. Of course I had prayed before – a quick, hurried grace before a meal; a prayer before going to bed; a prayer for good weather or for the boy at school to pay me attention. Let’s say, I had prayed many head prayers, but it wasn’t until graduate school and the end of my first real relationship that I prayed a heart prayer.
A Heart Prayer
To understand a heart prayer, you have to understand the song, “Come on in the Room.”
I’m Seventh-day Adventist. I grew up going to church on Saturday, the Sabbath. Before joining the denomination in her 20s, my mom grew up Baptist. Although Saturday was the special day we went to church, Sunday was still gospel music day. When I say gospel music, I mean that old school, touch- your-soul, feel-good-from-head-to-toe music. The kind of music where the choirs all had “Tabernacle Mass Choir” at the end of their names and were led by Reverend so-and-so. The music was always introduced by the heavy, whining chords of a Hammond organ. The lyrics didn’t follow sheet music as much as the ebbs and flows of the soloist and the jumping and swaying of the choir director. This was music that came from your soul; your mouth just gave it a way out.
Come on in the Room
If you haven’t heard it before, you have to listen to the song “Come on in the Room” to really understand what I’m talking about.
The soloist is surely somebody’s grandma, maybe even somebody’s great-grandma. She sings with authority. Her voice is deep with the experiences of life. If she told you to stop doing something, you’d stop dead in your tracks. She’s that kind of woman.
With the feel of a good blues song or an old piece of country western music, the song tells the story of a family headed “down south” in the United States. A storm comes along and the driver of the car gets injured in an accident. The family stops at a house along the road to use the phone and call for help. The grandmother waits in the car.
When the family doesn’t immediately return, the grandmother goes to the house to check on the situation. Finding that the doctor can’t be reached, the grandmother asks the homeowner for a closet. Like most of us, the owner of the home can’t understand why the older lady wants to use a closet, however she reluctantly shows her the way.
The older lady steps into the closet and starts to sing and pray,
“Come on in the room
Come on in the room
Jesus is my doctor,
And He writes out all my prescriptions
He gives me all my medicine in my room.”
As a kid, I loved when this song came on the radio, not because it meant anything to me. I loved it because it was funny to hear the man telling the story and then to hear the old woman start singing in her grandma voice. The song amused me but didn’t have any meaning. It was entertainment.
Learning to Pray at The University
I felt unconquerable before I got to grad school. I loved school. There was nothing I couldn’t do. I excelled at most everything I had done before. I was used to everything I touched turning to gold.
The graduate program I attended was at a University with a great reputation. The teaching moved quickly and was done in a non-traditional style. I started the program only a few weeks after I graduated from undergrad. Looking back, I was a bit burnt out. I should have taken a break between the two programs. I struggled, especially at the beginning. To make matters worse, a few days into the course, I realised I wasn’t really interested in what we were learning. Because I had started, I was determined to finish. So I pushed my way through. I remember studying for a mid-term exam. As I struggled to push past my point of frustration, a song from my childhood came to mind: “Come on in the Room.”
The song that had been entertaining as a child was gaining meaning as an adult. As I struggled in class, I remembered when the old lady from the song meant business and really needed God to intervene, she sang with authority, inviting God’s presence.
While the old woman is in the closet, the family and the homeowner hear a knock at the door. Surprised, someone goes to the door and finds the doctor there. He said he was in the area and wanted to know if he could have somewhere to stay. As he speaks, he has no idea the impact of his words, no clue that his arrival answers the grandmother’s prayer. When he walked in the room, the grandmother starts singing, praising God for the answer to her prayer.
There is joy in my room
Joy in the room
Jesus is my doctor,
He writes out all my prescriptions,
He gives me all my medicine in the room.
At the time, I had no idea the lessons of prayer and faith I was learning through that song. Many years later, when I had to enter my “prayer closet”, I had learned to do it boldly. I learned to step out in faith. I learned to expect blessings. I learned to tell God my needs. I learned to share my struggles and disappointments with God. I learned to share my heart.
I made it through that test and many others. The road was hard. There were many more prayers after that first one, but I learned that God would never leave me. I learned that God would help me through the challenges in front of me, I only needed to learn to depend on him.
Though I finished the course successfully, it’s likely I learned more in listening and living out that song than I did in the two years of studying.
What is Prayer?
As a Christian, I probably take this question, “What is prayer?” for granted. But, if you’ve made it this far in the article you might actually be thinking, that’s great for you, Rachel, but what about me? What is prayer?
From my experience, prayer is the most powerful advantage a Christian has. Prayer is connecting with God. Prayer is sharing your heart with God. Prayer is an honest expression of what’s going on in your life. Prayer is plugging into God’s power. Prayer is putting our requests out there and also believe that God cares enough to get involved in the details of the story. He doesn’t always get involved in those details in the way we imagine He will. He doesn’t always show up at the time or the way we think He should, but he’s always there. How amazing to think that the God of the whole universe cares about what’s happening in our lives.
Teach Us to Pray
Witnessing the power and connection Jesus had, the disciples asked Jesus, “How do you pray? Teach us to pray!”
7-13 “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Matthew 6:7-13 (Message Bible)
Tomorrow, we’ll explore this idea, when Jesus taught the disciples how to pray.