“You have more faith than you think you have. You have faith enough to pray; you have faith enough to believe that you will be heard. Faith is a strange thing; it often conceals itself…Nevertheless, it is there.” -O. Hallesby
I am reading Prayer, by Ole Hallesby–a Norwegian Christian who wrote in the early 1900’s–and this little book has opened my eyes to a deeper understanding of and desire for prayer.
The first chapter is called “What Prayer Is.” It’s been my favorite so far, laying down a fundamental understanding of this simple, basic-to-our-humanity, up-reaching thing we call prayer. I will share in my own words a few of O. Hallesby’s thoughts.
Prayer is not words; it is an attitude of the heart.
You can pray without speaking; you can pray without knowing you are praying. In Revelation 3:20, Jesus tells us, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.”
This verse teaches us what prayer really is, shows us that it is Jesus Himself who lays the prayer on our hearts and Jesus Himself who desires to come in and answer that prayer. In O. Hallesby’s words: “It is not our prayer which moves the Lord Jesus. It is Jesus who moves us to pray.”
Our prayer, then, is not the words we say. It is not a matter of finding the right phrases and speaking them with so much passion and intensity we force God to listen. That is not prayer at all.
Prayer is simply opening a door and allowing Jesus to enter our needs.
There are two elements of prayer.
The first is helplessness. The second is faith.
If you are a mother who has held her newborn child, or if you know a mother such as that, you will easily understand the concept of helplessness. A baby does not know how to ask for help, cannot give voice to its needs. It only lies there and cries or coos or sleeps, and its very helplessness, without any words, is a constant prayer to the mother’s heart, a prayer she will do anything in her power to fulfill.
When we come to God in helplessness, we are like that baby lying in its mother’s arms. We need no words to bring with us, no claim of need or petition for action. God sees.
Faith is the second element of prayer, and in this we often grow discouraged and confused. After all, Jesus said over and over again, “Be it unto you according to your faith.” And the stronger your faith, the greater the likelihood your prayer will be answered, right?
If we were commanded to have faith in faith, this would be true, but we are commanded no such thing. We are told to have faith in Christ, and He said our faith need only be as big as a grain of mustard seed.
That’s pretty small.
Faith is not, as we so often view it, a colossal arm twister, something with which to impress God and move Him to act. It is a basic component of prayer; without it you cannot pray. If you have prayed–whether you felt confident your prayer would be answered or whether you did not–already you have showed that you have faith.
If that faith is weak and faltering, tell Jesus about it. It is our admission of need which will allow him into our heart and give him permission to work. O. Hallesby says, “It is not intended that our faith should help Jesus to fulfill our supplications. He does not need any help; all he needs is access.”
Jesus Himself has made you aware of your need; Jesus Himself has knocked. And in the open-eyed acknowledgement of that need, in the numbing realization of your own helplessness and the inner up-reaching to One who Is Stronger, already you have prayed.