Chapter 1 – What Prayer Is

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    • #6745 Reply

      Welcome to our summer book club. This week, we begin with chapter 1 of Ole Hallesby’s classic “Prayer.” I have read this book multiple times and still love reading it. This first chapter changed my prayer life the first time I read it.

      Hallesby says: “Prayer is something deeper than words. It is present in the soul before it has been formulated in words. And it abides in the soul after the last words of prayer have passed over our lips” (p. 18). This means that prayer is not something we do at certain points in our day. Prayer is something we live out. It is a dependence on Christ for all things. Hallesby makes this clear as he discusses the two aspects of the spiritual condition of those who live out a prayerful life: helplessness and faith.

      I found prayer difficult for years after I was born again. I found myself being repetitive in my private time. I found it difficult to pray in public. But then Hallesby made me realize that I depended on God for so much, but then I tried to pray in my own power. I would pray for what I needed without letting prayer itself be something I was dependent on Him for. Once I realized my helplessness in prayer (like everything else) and that “We have enough faith when we in our helplessness turn to Jesus” (p. 30), my prayer life changed. I realized that the repetition of my prayers was okay because it was in itself an acknowledgment that I was reliant on God in those things. When I pray publicly (as you hear on Sunday mornings) I pray to God nothing more than our desire to worship Him, surrender to Him, and be granted faith to obey Him. And I can pray these same things every Sunday, because in helplessness and faith we know we are reliant on God for these things all the time!

      Hellesby’s focus on prayer as something Christ does first and foremost if we come to Him in helpless faith (even when we doubt!) is a game changer. I don’t have to be a confident pray-er. I just have to be confident in Christ, and I pray well!

      What did you all think of chapter 1?

    • #6758 Reply

      Amber Duca

      Common sense alludes me and I tend to over-spiritualize so these things have helped me have perspective:
      – I thank God, literally, that my prayers are not reliant on my power.
      – As sure as the air our body needs is around us and on all sides of us at all times, is the same way God is around us.
      – A sick person cannot will themselves well. “Treatment” may be most successful when we are still and being submissive, exerting neither intellect nor will.
      – Jesus is undisturbed by my impatience.
      – God knows the moment I am seized with helplessness and He becomes actively engaged.
      – As an infant surrenders to its mother’s care, so must I, to Jesus.
      – My self-conceit and self-sufficiency get in the way of my helplessness, fuel my anxiety, and steal my peace.
      – Helplessness goes against what the world tells me, but, it feels freeing to know that in my helplessness I will not be overtaken by difficulty, disturbed by distress, or frightened by any hindrance.
      – Expect nothing of myself and bring everything to God.
      – Faith vs. unbelief vs. doubt = I do trust Jesus and I don’t have to fear my doubts or weak faith, but only tell Jesus how weak my faith is.

    • #6763 Reply

      Lynne Mazza-Hilway

      Yes Amber! I love the way you shared your feedback in bullet points. Very well written and succinct.
      Our community group just finished Charles Stanley’s study on “Deepening your Prayer Life” and although I love him and there’s a lot of great information on different areas of prayer in his book, many of us felt degrees of guilt right from the beginning. Like we weren’t really praying correctly, mostly challenged in the lack of time spent listening for God . This first chapter of Hallesby’s book was so refreshing, encouraging and profoundly simple. “It is Jesus who moves us to pray. He knocks at our hearts’ doors. Prayer is something deeper than words, an attitude of helplessness from our hearts and minds. Helplessness is, psychologically, the sustaining and impelling power of prayer. Yet without faith there can be no prayer. True prayer is a fruit of helplessness and faith. Even a weak, unstable and doubting faith is heard and answered.” Praise God! All we need to do is “permit the infinite God to have mercy on us, to love us and care for us.”

    • #6773 Reply

      Blanca Saccomanno

      Loving this book! I have only read the 1st few pages and it has warmed my heart and changed my view on prayer from something that we do as a discipline to seeing prayer as God’s design as a means of intimate fellowship with humankind (page 14).

    • #6776 Reply

      Carolyn Hayes

      Okay . . . This is the essence of Chapter One of O. Hallesby’s book on “Prayer:”

      Someone’s knockin’ at the door
      Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
      Someone’s knockin’ at the door
      Someone’s ringing’ the bell
      Do me a favor
      Open the door and let ’em in!

      There is a town in north Ontario
      With dream comfort memory to spare
      In my mind, I still need a place to go
      All my changes were there . . .
      Helpless, helpless, helpless
      Helpless, helpless, helpless
      Helpless, helpless, helpless

      Respectively, Paul McCartney and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young had the right attitude, “Do me a favor and let Jesus in!” Because – we are all helpless, helpless, helpless . . . and once we admit that fact, Jesus will step in and do the rest! The last sentence in paragraph 8 on page 30 says it all: “When we are in our helplessness and we turn to Jesus, it is proof positive that we have enough faith!” . . . Yes, I had to revamp and add emphasis; however, that’s what Hallesby is really saying!

    • #6792 Reply

      Lisa McFarland

      One line sums up the chapter. Page 14…”To pray is to give Jesus permission to employ his powers in the alleviation of our distress.”

    • #6810 Reply

      Nayara Jordan

      This is my first time reading this book. I really like it; I feel that Hallesby’s thoughts have real depth yet are meant to come across with simplicity. Though many quotes really resonated with me, my recency bias leads me to reference one of the last examples from Mark of the father and his demon-possessed son who needed healing.

      p34-35, “We vacillate between doubt and faith. We are not certain whether we are praying right… And even if we feel certain that what we are praying for is according to the will of God, there is frequently so little earnestness and sincerity in our prayer that we, for that reason, doubt that we will be heard. We feel that it is almost blasphemy toward God to pray in such a state of mind. At such a time it is blessed to know that we have faith enough when we bring our needs to Jesus and leave them with Him… I need not exert myself and try to force myself to believe, or try to chase doubt out of my heart. Both are equally useless. It begins to dawn on me that I can bring everything to Jesus… and I need not be frightened away by my doubts or my weak faith, but only tell Jesus how weak my faith is. I have let Jesus into my heart. And He will fulfill my heart’s desire.”

      This quote speaks to me and convicts me most in this season of life. It is a real encouragement!

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