A friend of mine was selected by President George H.W. Bush to be the United States Ambassador to Austria. During a time when he disagreed with the President about foreign policy, the Ambassador was summoned to the White House for a meeting in the Oval Office. My friend and President Bush had been friends for 40 years. They had children the same age, and their families spent lots of time together. After the President listened to the Ambassador’s concerns, the two men took a walk in the White House Rose Garden.
The Ambassador told me, later, that during that walk, he recognized that his own perspective on foreign policy was extremely limited. The President saw “the Big Picture” of what was happening in the world, which the Ambassador had no way of knowing. In that Rose Garden walk, the Ambassador got in tune with the President’s perspective, which changed his mind.
In Hebrew, there is a special word for “a companion of the garden” – paradise. In prayer, we are invited to be “companions of God in the garden” and experience a taste of paradise. When we pray, we are invited into the intimate presence of the God of the universe to get the divine perspective on life. As author Madeleine L’Engle says, “People have a point of view; God has view.”
[tweetable]Therefore, the purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind, but to receive God’s mind. We do not pray to cajole God into giving us what we want. Prayer is a vehicle for cultivating an intimate relationship with God. It is like taking a walk with God in the Rose Garden. In God’s presence, we start to see life from a different perspective. We receive God’s “view.”
The disciples recognized that prayer was the source of Jesus’ power. This is why they asked Him to teach them how to pray. It is the only thing the disciples ever asked Jesus to teach them.
As they saw Jesus get up early in the morning and seek a quiet place to pray, the disciples realized that in prayer, Jesus plugged into the power and perspective of God. And, Jesus’ prayer life was incredibly honest. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before he died on the cross, Jesus asked God, “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done.” (Luke 22:42)
As I am learning to trust God, I have developed the prayer posture of open hands. As I open my hands in prayer, I am relinquishing “the illusion” that I am in control and I am trusting God to take some things out of my hands and put some new things into them. To be honest, sometimes my hands have been so tightly clenched around “the trapeze bar” that I am holding on to, that I’m not willing to open my hands and grasp “the new trapeze bar” that is swinging my way. Prayer is an adventure in learning how to know God and trust God’s “view.” Prayer truly is a walk in God’s garden… a foretaste of paradise.