What does prayer mean to you? Is it a spiritual discipline? A gift? A calling? Is it a box to check off each day, or is it your life’s blood?
There isn’t just one way to describe prayer, but I can tell you what it isn’t. Prayer is not meant to be a wishlist, a way to manipulate God or others, boring, or just for certain people.
So what is prayer, then? I like to think of it as talking with God. It’s sharing everything with Him and expecting to hear from Him. Through prayer, we can know and do God’s will and view all our experiences as shared with Him. I like what Richard Foster says of prayer: “To pray is to change…In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to will the things He wills.”
If you had told me 18 months ago that God was about to change my life through prayer, I would have shrugged it off as a strange thought, and I for sure wouldn’t have prayed about it. In September of 2017 God gently yet firmly let me know through a series of conversations with Him that my perception about prayer was wrong: sinful. I was greatly humbled by this painful awakening, and after confessing and repenting my next response was, “Jesus, please teach me about prayer.” He graciously gave me more than I could have asked or thought. As I took baby steps of obedience and surrender, He gave me personal lessons on how to gain His wisdom, abide in Him, and have more of Him. And for the first time in 20 years of walking with Him, I desired these things above everything else in my life.
At that point, I was two years into an already life-altering inward spiritual journey that was forged in deep grief. Through those two years, I had begged God for more of Him and His nearness and clung with white knuckles to this promise: “The righteous cry and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Psalm 34:17-18
I began pleading for His wisdom, and He gave (and continues giving) it freely…
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” -James 1:5
And I discovered what true abiding is…
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…and if the Son makes you free, you are free indeed.” -John 8:31-32, 36
Today as I daily seek to abide in Christ, I find myself craving and sacrificing for more focused time with Him. Throughout the gospels, I see Jesus frequently going “off to a lonely place” to be with the Father, and I understand why: it is where spiritual blessings abound. I have also been training my mind to (as my favorite monk Brother Lawrence calls it) “practice the presence of God” throughout the day. Although I fail often, it has become something I never want to stop striving for.
I encourage everyone to seek more of God through prayer. Not sure where to begin? Do as the disciples did and ask Jesus how He wants you to pray. (Remember, James 1:5 tells us He will give wisdom generously to those who ask!) God will use His Word and the Holy Spirit to teach you. Shift your focus from yourself, your shortcomings, or your past onto God (Isaiah 26:3), and expect to hear from Him (John 16:13-14, 1 Cor. 2:9-13).
Come to Wednesday Night Worship and Prayer time (7 PM in the sanctuary). Try a morning and/or evening devotional that focuses on gratitude and praise. Start a prayer journal, recording everything from requests to laments to answers you get to see on this side of heaven. Make prayer cards and pray through 3-4 each day. Have a family prayer time and teach your children to join you. Everyone can put Romans 12:1-2 into action by practicing the presence of God throughout your day. You can do this by asking yourself, “Does this activity/conversation lead me to God?”
God desires a deep relationship with you. And believe me, you want it too! It was those who followed closest to Jesus, truly seeking and abiding in Him, who received the deeper things, the most intimacy, and the fullest joy. The benefits of orienting your life around God through prayer are endless and far outweigh the sacrifices and growing pains that come with a life being continually transformed by Him.
“It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened to you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.”
The Thessalonians experienced a Message that changed the course of their lives forever. It wasn’t the words that Paul, Silas, and Timothy spoke that gave them power, but the Spirit behind and in the words that emboldened these believers to live in freedom and truth.
Take a moment and pray these words over you, your family, our church family, and the community.
Father, I thank you for your steadfast love and grace. I ask Your Holy Spirit to speak life into our hearts and minds. Provide us with opportunities to speak that same life into the hearts and minds of others. May you strengthen our convictions as that of iron smelted into steel. May we always be imitators of you. Use us so that we may bring glory to Your name. Fill us with the joy of the Holy Spirit that we may endure every hardship according to your Word.
Steady your thoughts on things above and be lifted up. God has something special for you. Be still and listen.
Do you need a prayer partner? Contact our prayer team here. We have prayer warriors willing to fight with you in battle.