How’s your prayer life? Mine has been rocky to say the least. I don’t always know how to do it, I don’t always want to do it and usually , and I’m ashamed I don’t do it more often. Prayer can be intimidating. It was to me. Just using the word “prayer” invokes a sense of religious ceremony and sanctification of my sinful ways and can make me feel unworthy of talking to God. I seem to take some glorified sense of the word and put it on a pedestal—something that only the worthy can or should do. It was possible in my mind that you could do it wrong and then it would just compound your sin. I used to be uncomfortable even being around people in a situation where prayer was going to take place out of fear that I might be asked to pray. I felt that I was expected to know how to not only pray but to pray well. I was afraid that I didn’t know what to say and that I would be judged, yelled at, and laughed at by those around me.
I idolized prayer and those who did it well, and I was fearful of not living up to the idol I built.
I’ve learned a lot in the last year and one of the most important things is that prayer is simply communicating with God. That’s it! It’s just simply talking to Him, respectfully but not formally, like you would to your own earthly dad. Prayer is not some kind of stagnant ritualistic routine you have to do all the time. It’s not something we have to do, it’s something we get to do! When you think about God and all that he is, has done and will do, we forget that he wants us to be a participant. It’s the most common way we get to interact with our Lord and be an active participant in His work. Prayer can be public or private, spoken, in thought, written, sung, or just listening and being silent with Him.
After realizing this and reflecting back on my normal day I came to the conclusion that I underestimated myself in how much I thought I prayed. Most of my prayer was not spoken and it was extremely informal. Typically I thought of prayer as starting off with something like “Father God please ….”, “Lord Jesus I ask that…”, or “Thank you God for…”, and always ended with “…in Jesus name I pray, Amen” or just simply “Amen.” If it didn’t start and end like that it wasn’t prayer. But rarely, if at all, did I find that I formally start and end a prayer when I talk to God throughout the day. I just talk to him like he was sitting next to me in casual conversation and that is prayer. He knows my heart and my thoughts before I do. He knows when I’m talking to Him. This concept really changed how and how often I pray. When looked at as simply casual conversation with your Dad, it’s easy to do throughout the day without much prior thought or pressure. The prayers that I used to do, when I felt I had to—like repetitively saying “Dear God, thanks for this food, bless it to my body, Amen” before each meal really—showed me that, for me, these were excuses I used because of my guilt when I couldn’t or wouldn’t be open and real with God.
When you become a Christian—by recognizing that Jesus is the son of God who lived as a man, died for our sins, and was resurrected from the dead back to the living to give us the gift of salvation from sin, reconnecting us with God—and commit your life to Christ and ask God into your heart, He sends the Holy Spirit to live inside you. This is what enables us to pray in communion with God. Mark Driscoll describes it this way: “And God the Holy Spirit enables and empowers us to pray. The Spirit’s been talking to the Father and the Son from eternity past and will communicate with them till eternity future. And He dwells in us to teach us to be prayerful. And generally speaking, as Christians, our prayers ought to be Trinitarian. To the Father through the Son by the Spirit.”
Knowing where to start praying in general can be tough. If you don’t know what to do, I find it’s easiest to start by seeking the evidence of Gods grace in your life and simply thanking Him for it. After that, if I still don’t know what to say, I simply ask God to help me pray. I’m not good at planning a prayer. If we believe that the Holy Spirit is in us and can teach us to pray, the first thing we need to do is listen. I like to just be silent with God, listen to what the Holy Spirit will tell me, think about what is weighing on me, and just listen and then respond. I know it sounds funny, like some mysterious voice will tell me something and I’ll hear it just like I hear the radio, but it’s not like that. Hearing God talk to me is something like a comprehension in my mind that I know is from God, it’s not from me, but yet I know it. Some will argue that it’s just my conscience talking to me, but I’d argue that if it was just me telling myself stuff then I think it would be to my benefit a lot more often—I am a sinner after all. You see it’s more like a foreign thought that is always within God’s will that can be backed up by biblical truth.
I often don’t like what I hear and don’t agree with it, but I know it’s right and true, I know it’s biblical because I can look in the bible and find evidence of it. Prayer will get easier and more comfortable the more you pray—it did for me. The more you listen to God and respond to Him, talking to him in a casual way, will you develop a relationship like none other. Don’t think for a second that because the answer to your prayer isn’t the one you wanted means that God didn’t answer you. God answers all prayers, although it’s not always the answer we want to hear. To oversimplify it, God answers three ways: Yes, No, or Later. Prayers are answered Yes, it’s biblical, it glorify’s God, and it’s His will. Prayers are answered No, it’s not biblical or it doesn’t glorify God or it’s not His will to be done. And prayers are also answered Later or not yet, you’re not ready, your motivations aren’t right, you need to learn, change, or grow, or the timing isn’t right for God’s will to be done.
My prayer life is getting better. It’s not great, but I’m working on it every day. The more I do it, the easier it gets for me. It’s becoming a habit. I find myself talking to God without meaning to. That’s awesome! I never imagined what that could be like, but it redefines the meaning of Jesus being my personal Savior. It doesn’t get much more personal than constant communication from the depth of your being and finding nothing but His grace and love in response every time.
I pray for you to know God and experience His grace and love, and I thank Him for the opportunity to truly know Him.
—submitted by Jim Young, US
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