2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
Prayer. One word but under the umbrella of that word are a variety of ideas and practices. Mark tells us that Jesus regularly got up while it was still dark and went off to a solitary place to pray. Matthew tells us the Pharisees had a habit of praying loud and long in the street for others to see and hear. Jesus had nothing good to say about that practice. A glimpse into the content of their prayers reveals that it was mostly about how "good" they were and how "bad" others were. Quite a contrast from Jesus' prayers.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about prayer in the life of Jesus was the day the disciples came to Him asking Him to teach them to pray. Grown men raised Jewish asking to be taught how to pray. Clearly the prayer life of Jesus was very different from everything they had seen and heard and did themselves.
Yesterday I hinted that something significant happened at the cross that changed prayer significantly. Let me explain. (Later today I will post this on my blog with pictures that will make it easier to understand.)
Prayer is talking to God. How we pray reflects to a large degree how we see/understand Him. If we see Him as expecting things from us then we pray like the Pharisees did, essentially offering our résumé to Him so He'll have to bless us and give us what we want.
If we see Him as distant and far removed from us that will affect how we relate to Him as well. The Temple was originally built by Moses as the dwelling place of God. His presence (cloud by day and fire by night) filled the second room of the Temple called The Most Holy Place. This room was divided from the first room by a veil or thick curtain. No one could enter that room except the High Priest once a year. It certainly added to the understanding that God was not easily accessible. The reality was only the priests could enter the first room and the building itself was surrounded by a wall. God was so close and yet so far away. He could be accessed only by the High Priest and that only once a year. In front of the dividing veil was an altar of incense that burned continually. The smoke had access to the Most Holy Place over top of the veil. That smoke represented our prayers. We couldn't come to Him in person but could come to Him any time in prayer.
The veil, the inaccessible rooms, and the courtyard wall all symbolized the barriers sin had erected between us and Him. When a relationship is broken you can feel the wall between you and that person even when there is no literal wall.
Then Jesus died... and suddenly everything changed. The instant He breathed His last breath there was a massive earthquake and the veil in the Temple was torn in half from the top to the bottom. That veil was 75 feet (25m) high and 6 inches (15cm) thick. The Most Holy Place was suddenly exposed and accessible. Inside was one piece of furniture that symbolized His throne. The throne was/is called the Mercy Seat. His throne is Mercy and because of Jesus it is fully open to and for all. No longer do our prayers need to waft over a barrier to access an almost inaccessible God. Now we can come boldly to His throne of mercy.
What is my point? Those first believers gladly prayed often and boldly because through Jesus they could see and understand that God did not want a résumé nor did He desire to be far off and unapproachable. He was full of mercy just as Moses had been shown centuries before. He wants us. He loves us. He loves to hear from us.
Prayer is the breath of the soul and prayer is talking to God as though talking to a friend because He is our friend.
"Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down His life for His friends."
The last night before His death He told His disciples "I no longer call you servants. I call you friends."
When you understand the traditional view of the Master/disciple relationship that is a hugely significant statement. We can talk to Him any time. He is our friend and His throne is mercy.