I commend to you John Bunyan’s “A Discourse Touching Prayer” (Works of John Bunyan 1:621-40). It is based on 1 Corinthians 14:15, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also.”
According to Bunyan:
Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate pouring out of the heart or soul to God, through Christ, in the strength and assistance of the Holy Spirit, for such things as God hath promised, or according to the Word, for the good of the church, with submission, in faith, to the will of God.
Rather than summarizing the work, let me encourage you to read it (it is rather short). To that end, let me give you a taste of what Bunyan means in saying that prayer is “an affectionate pouring out of the soul to God.” He means that the Biblical picture of one who prays is one who longs for more of God. He cites many biblical texts to prove his point. Here are a few:
- ”As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psa 42:1)
- “I have longed after thy precepts” (Psa 119:40)
- “I have longed for thy salvation” (Psa 119:174)
- “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God” (Psa 84:2)
- “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times” (Psa 119:20)
From this he concludes that prayers rightly flow from one who already loves God, yet longs to experience closer communion with Him. When one longs to love God more, it changes the prayers completely: “the whole man is engaged, and that in such sort, that the soul will spend itself to nothing, as it were, rather than it will go without that good desired, even communion and solace with Christ.” By this, Bunyan teaches that a desire for communion with Christ drives a man to tireless prayer that he would obtain the greater communion (even as Jacob insisted on a blessing in Genesis 32).
Bunyan believes the reason so few pray in this way is that few who pray are truly born again. He fears that “scarce one of forty… know what it is to be born again, to have communion with the Father through the Son; to feel the power of grace sanctifying their hearts.” Yet, those who do have saving faith know this communion to be the greatest possible reality that any being can know, thus pursues it to the neglect of lesser pursuits. Such a person “sees an emptiness in all things under heaven,” instead believing “that in God alone there is rest and satisfaction for the soul.”
Here are a few thoughts to consider pursuing in prayer:
- Pray that God would convince you of the truth that communion with the Triune God is the greatest reality possible and the place of the greatest joy you could possibly experience
- Pray that God will decrease your longings for all lesser goals than greater communion with God
- Pray that God will cause you to long for greater communion with Him, so that your prayers for greater communion with Him will flow from “an affectionate pouring out of your soul to God”