A few weeks ago, I received a book in the postbox called “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyer. I had heard nothing but good concerning this work and was quite eager to begin it. As the title suggests, the content centers on the mind. The author compares our minds to a battlefield – an area of combat. So in preparing this week’s prayer paper, I quite understandably began to reflect on the influence of thoughts on prayers.
As I pondered the relationship between thoughts and prayer, I realised that the mind may influence our prayers a great deal. For instance, we may pray from our minds rather than according to the Holy Spirit. I suggest that this is possibly because it takes a conscious effort (and some time!) to quieten our minds and hear just what the Holy Spirit would have us pray at any given moment.
Another area where our thought-lives choke our prayer-lives is worry. I suppose most of us have found ourselves worrying about something even quite recently. Then, as worried Christians, we typically realise that we should perhaps pray for the issue we are worried about. But maybe you have done like me, and have continued worrying in prayer! On multiple occasions I have found myself worry-praying instead of praying with faith. However, I have never had the release I was longing for in prayer while letting my mind be governed by worry. If the mind does not release the issue to God, prayer will remain as useless to us as muttering the matter over under our breath.
So, which role should our minds have with regard to prayer? In 1 Corinthians 14:15 Paul sets his example. He says: “I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also”. In her book, Joyce Meyer reflects on Paul’s instruction in the following way. She states that she frequently prays in the spirit for some time, after which something comes to her mind to pray in her native language. Furthermore, she points out that the reverse also works. She says that sometimes she begins prayer by simply making herself available to God for this purpose. Her prayers will begin from her mind (praying for issues that she is aware of) and then she continues in this way until the Holy Spirit seizes some particular issue. According to Joyce Meyer, her mind and spirit “are working together, aiding one another in accomplishing the will of God” (p.82). Rather than seeing her mind as an inherent enemy to prayer, Joyce Meyer harnesses it to help her.
Sometimes, however, our minds are in opposition to God’s. It is obvious we cannot pray from a mind that disagrees with God. By way of example, our minds can hinder us when we need to pray for someone. Have you ever been in a situation where you had to pray out loud for someone you didn’t think highly of? Wasn’t it uncomfortable? In situations of this kind we may try to give our attitudes a quick fix or we may pray shallow bless-you prayers instead. In any case, if our thoughts about a person or issue are not in line with God’s, our prayers will be limp. We will, in fact, not be much better than hypocrites, who our Lord described with inspiring phrases such as “white-washed tombs” and the like.
This being said, a beautiful aspect of the grace of God is that He will take us where we are and bring us to where He already is. So, even if we do begin prayer in an attitude of worry or with feelings of dislike towards a person, we need not despair. If our hearts are open to His Spirit, He will begin to pour out His thoughts and His affections to us. We will find our thoughts changed in the process of prayer. This is our hope and, I believe, God’s delighted intention.
Pure prayer rises from a pure heart. And if our hearts and minds are in line with God’s, we can rest assured that:
he hears the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29)