I want you to think about a tree right now that has two major trunk divisions coming out of a solid base and healthy deep root system. From each trunk division grow many branches with flourishing leaves and succulent fruit of all sizes. The tree is heavy with fruit and it just keeps producing more and more. This is how we are going to think about prayer and what I see as the many parts to it.
Understanding some foundational principles up front will resolve potential conflicts that I believe people encounter when they begin to pray on any deeper level than just, "Help, God!" We are also going to use the marriage relationship to help describe some of the branches of prayer and how they interrelate to each other.
First let's talk about the roots. The roots of our prayer tree are the scriptures-the Bible. They supply nutrition to the whole tree. Drawing from the roots will increase our effectiveness and power in prayer.
The base trunk is our relationship with the Lord. Everything above it, all the branches, leaves and fruit rest in this relationship. It is out of our relationship with God that every kind of prayer comes forth. It is interesting that Jesus spoke of his relationship with his followers in similar terms. He said, "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
Now what are the two major trunk divisions in the prayer tree? I will call one "Passion" and the other "Practical." If these two sides to prayer are arising out of the same relationship base, we will be prayer powerhouses that are unstoppable. The marriage relationship is a good way to understand these two essential elements in prayer.
Two people meet, fall in love and get married. At the wedding ceremony they speak vows to each other which become the foundation of their relationship. The vows are the underpinnings of every activity in their marriage. As they proceed into their new life, however, they find there is both a passionate and a practical side. They can't totally base their marriage on only one side. They deeply love each other but they don't stare into each other's eyes 24/7. The lawn has to be mowed; meals have to be prepared, shopping has to be done. They find though that if they get too caught up in tasks and duties, their intimate relationship and their passion for each other suffers.
The passion side of prayer is our intimate one-on-one time with the Lord. Just the two of you; talking things over; listening to each other-telling him how much you love him. This is pure joy and it pours oil and grace on all the rest of life. Just like the intimate parts of marriage make all the rest of your life together worthwhile.
The practical side plays a part too. These are the mechanics of prayer; the technical instruction on how exactly you do it and how you make it more effective. In household duties there are methods for making a bed or cleaning a stove that are proven over time to be most effective. A good housekeeper knows the tricks of the trade. A person deeply involved in prayer knows the tricks of the prayer trade.
The branches that come forth from the main trunk divisions are all the different types of prayer and there are very many of these for us to talk about. The fruit is the good stuff: the answers to prayer and the growing intimacy with the Lord. To get to the good stuff we have to be rooted in scripture, grounded in our relationship with God, and balanced in our approach to prayer. I will try to teach you all that I have learned over the years about prayer and maybe I will learn a thing or two from you also. As we talk about prayer, keep this tree in mind. Together let's grow the healthiest tree and produce prize winning fruit to advance the kingdom of God.
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