Here’s the low-down:
Prayer is ESSENTIAL.
Here’s what it is not:
A token of appreciation.
A “go-to” when we’re desperate.
A “wish list” of our wants.
A poetic gesture with magical consequences.
IF IT IS ESSENTIAL, then why does it often feel like an anomaly?
anomaly [uh-nom-uh-lee]: “An odd, peculiar, or strange condition, situation, quality, etc.” [dictionary.com]
It doesn’t have to be. The God of the Bible has given us this supernatural ability to communicate with Him, but unfortunately, it is often a struggle and just doesn’t come as natural to us as you might think it should. Because of our human condition we are desperately in need of this intimacy with our Creator, but find it difficult–often because of our own preconceived ideas.
There have been volumes written on this very subject, but I would like to simplify this very complex idea of communicating with God in a way that is easy to understand. And it comes from the book of Thessalonians in the New Testament:
If you only pray when you are desperate, then you are seriously missing the point. Of course there will be times of desperation, but prayer is more than that–it is all about having an intimate relationship with God. You will never be close to anyone if you never communicate with them.
The Lord Jesus himself gave us an example of how to pray in Matthew 6. He didn’t just give an example, He was an example. He often got away alone to pray–and prayed often. He prayed for His disciples. He prayed for children. He prayed for His enemies. He prayed for others and He prayed for Himself. His example of heart-wrenching prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane was repeated three times as He cried out to His Abba Father, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” It was natural that God’s Son would want to communicate with His Father.
How then, do we do it? How can sinful man come into the presence of a holy God?
ADMIT YOU NEED HIM: Much like a blind person would lean on a walking stick, leaning toward God means that we humble ourselves before Him and recognize our need for Him. When we lean closer to Him, not only do we see Him more clearly, but, like Isaiah, we see ourselves as we really are. “My hand made all these things, and so they all came into being. This is the Lord’s declaration. I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at My word.” Isaiah 66:2
LISTEN: Prayer isn’t about getting the words right. It’s about being honest–honest enough to admit we need to hear from Him more that we need Him to hear us. God knows our heart, and when we seek Him, He will speak to our heart if we will but listen. “I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant with joy; their faces will never be ashamed.” Psalm 34:4-5
BELIEVE HE CARES: As we grow closer to the Lord, our hearts will supernaturally become more compassionate. Yes, we lift our needs and concerns to our Heavenly Father, but as our passion increases, so will our compassion; our general prayers will turn specific as we petition for our needs and the needs of others. “First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior.” I Timothy 2:1-3
LET HIM CHANGE YOU: Being in the presence of God should change us. Prayer doesn’t end just because we say, “Amen”. We aren’t praying to change God’s mind, or convince Him of something He doesn’t know.
More often than not, prayer changes US as we begin to see things from His perspective.
It becomes evident that we’ve been with Jesus when we take what we’ve learned and live it out in the real world. “If you continue in My Word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32
The only true experts on prayer are the ones who put into practice genuine, heart-felt prayers on a regular basis. I want to be a person who prays so much that I want to pray more. I have experienced God in many ways but never so personal as when I am alone with Him. Truth is, prayer isn’t just when we’re actually physically alone with Him–prayer can become as close to you as your own breath, naturally entering into His presence despite your surroundings. When we live in a constant state of recognition that He is always there, waiting to commune with us, we enter His throne room in humility, but with confidence that is listening… waiting.
For more reading, consider:
Enjoying the Presence of God by Jan Johnson [based on the book, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence]
Before Amen by Max Lucado
Pray Like it Matters by Steve Gaines
Prayers of the Faithful by Mary Ann Bridgwater