The School of Discipleship is a one year programme offered by the Commission. It comprises 40 sessions, including Understanding Scripture, Reading the Word of God and Sacraments. This is a short excerpt from the session on Prayer.
Introduction Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess 5:16–18).
Paul in his letter to the Corinthians tells us to “pray constantly”. This does not mean we need to keep saying one ‘Our Father’ after another, but to be in continuous communion with God, regardless of what we might be doing or where we may be. Getting to this state, however, takes some doing and these four elements help immensely in achieving that.
To make progress of any noticeable merit on this journey towards becoming more like Christ, we need to have a healthy relationship with God, and this can be achieved only by spending time in prayer.
Traditional community prayers to which many of us are accustomed are excellent ways of praying but in order to build a truly meaningful relationship with God, a prime requisite is personal prayer.
When the apostles asked Jesus for advice on the subject of prayer, He said to them: “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Mt 6:6).
What do we do when we are alone, though? While the following verse, Matthew 6:7, suggests we simply shut up and listen to God, it takes time to develop the level of spirituality that allows us to remain in silence before God.
Until then, it might help to use the time—optimally, an hour—to improve our relationship with him using certain important elements of prayer. These are: Praise, Spiritual Warfare, Thanksgiving, Repentance, Forgiveness, Surrender, Infilling, Worship, Intercession, The Word of God and Silence.
Begin your prayer session by singing joyful songs to the Lord. There is, of course, the obvious reason for this as expressed by the psalmist: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands!” (Psalm 100:1). But there is another reason.
Many of us enter prayer burdened with the cares and burdens of the world. Our focus is very much on ourselves. When we open our mouths and sing (even though we might not feel like it!) we take our attention off ourselves (and our problems) and focus it on God. This gets us into the mood of prayer, like nothing else can.
As we have already seen, Paul advises us to “give thanks to God in all circumstances” (1 Thess 5:18). Somebody once said that if the only prayer we say is a prayer of thanksgiving, it would be prayer enough.
We should never fail to thank God for the many blessings that we receive. Thanking God also helps to take away our focus on the things in life that aren’t too pleasing to us and focus on all the good things that we are blessed with.