If you want to pray there are lots of helpful resources. I would especially recommend the 24-7 prayer site: www.24-7prayer.com/helpmepray
I've often heard that prayer is the key to everything, that the secret is to spend a lot of time on our own seeking God. Jesus did it and we need to do the same. It's hard to disagree, but maybe it's not the whole story.
This week I've been reading John 15, where Jesus makes an astonishing promise about prayer: ask whatever you wish and the Father will give it to you.
It sounds great, but how are we meant to get there? Jesus' answer is straight forward and perhaps surprising. He commands that we love one another. Then answered prayer will follow.
Love comes first.
If we want to pray like Jesus prayed we must learn to love as he loved.
We pray alone, but we qualify to pray alone in community.
Why is this so? Because only those who love like Jesus loves will pray the prayers that Jesus prayed. It's when we learn to lay our lives down that we get released from selfish prayer and pray in line with the prayers of Jesus, as his friend.
More on Sunday ...
'OK, Jesus, we know you loved him. But what's the point of all this crying? You could have done something. You opened the eyes of a blind man. Why did you hang around doing nothing? This man was dying. Are you crying because you were too late?'
'It's like Martha said. If you'd been here this man would not be dead.'
'What's that? Take the stone away? Come on. Jesus it's going to stink. Don't you know what a body smells like after it has been dead four days?'
'You want us to see the glory of God? Come on! There's no glory here.'
'And really there is no point in calling a dead man by name. He's not going to get up and walk out of the ...'
The story of Jesus and Lazarus raises as many questions as it answers. The basic point is that Jesus is the resurrection. He is victorious over death. But it's still a story of great pain and confusion. Nobody knows what Jesus means when he says that Lazarus is 'asleep.' Jesus' tears look more like defeat than victory.
I think that the pain of this story matters. It gives us permission to be confused. It gives us permission to cry. It lets us tell Jesus that if he had been there things would be different. It lets us tell Jesus when things stink. And somehow in the end we hear the voice of Jesus, saying that if we believe we will see the glory of God.
A shepherd at the time of Jesus had two roles. The first was to protect the flock from thieves and wild animals, if necessary by putting his own life at risk. The second was to take the flock to pasture so the sheep could eat and drink and live.
So Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd. The 'flock' are God's people. Jesus risks and give his life for them so they will be completely safe. He gives us everything we need for eternal life, having laid his life down and taken it up again.
When Jesus said these things he got two reactions. Some found it strange and difficult and rejected him. Others found it equally strange but they felt that someone who did the things Jesus was doing had to come from God.
People told Jesus it was time to start speaking clearly. Jesus said he already had, and if they looked at things he was doing they would see that he came from the Father.
So it's simple and it's complicated. Jesus died. He rose again. He is God's Son. Anyone can accept this and receive what Jesus has to offer. And it's so wonderfully complicated it takes image after image to explain: the bread of life, the light of the world, the good shepherd etc etc.
More wonderful than we can ever imagine.