Saturday, March 19, 2016
This thing called prayer
For most of my life, prayer has simply been something I felt I had to do. It was as if I had a list of chores to do daily as a Christian, and I had to do it and check it off of my chore list. The kid's chorus turned into preachers telling me how important it is to pray every day if you love God, and that you must "pray through" at least once in a while.....I still don't know what that means.
My prayers have always been stilted, with an eye on the clock to try to fill in as much time as I could. The longer the prayer, the better Christian I am after all, even if I am doing it just so I can mark it off my Christian chore list for the day.
And I have always hated praying in public. I am self conscious about what I say, how long my prayer is, what people are thinking about what I say and how long I pray.....I may as well be praying to the people around me, as they are the focus of how I pray.
A few months ago, I watched a great movie called War Room. It was an amazing movie that was about the power of prayer. I was so moved and impressed by it, that I bought a Bible study with video sessions and have been working on it the last few weeks. I also bought a book by the producers called Battle Plan For Prayer. Between the book and the Bible study, I am learning so much about prayer that I never learned, or never "got". The study and book aren't written in some deep theological way that puts you to sleep, yet there is so much good and helpful things in them about prayer that it has really helped me and my prayer life..... and I am not even done with either the book or Bible study.
What have I learned? Well, here are a few things:
I need to pray believing God WILL answer, not hoping that He might.
I need to have a specific time for prayer.
God sometimes starts answering our prayers long before we ever pray them.
There are different types of prayer - adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. We may at times focus on just one, but it is good to incorporate all 4 into our prayers.
We can pray without ceasing....pray about everything throughout the day that comes up or for people who come to our minds.
Prayer doesn't have to be a certain length of time.
Prayer is just talking to God, a conversation with our Heavenly Father.
There are hindrances to prayer, but there are also "keys" to prayer.
Prayer is a tool, just like we'd pick up a phone to call someone..... the emphasis is on the conversation and who we are talking to, not on the phone or prayer.
I don't need to overthink prayer.
And I have learned a lot more than that. Those are the highlights.
As I have studied and prayed about what I am reading and learning, my view of prayer has slowly began to shift. I don't view it as something I have to do, but something I can do and want to do. I don't worry about the length, and at the times when I fight sleep as I am praying, I feel like God understands if I cut it short and fall asleep. God isn't sitting up there with a timer, sighing in frustration if I don't pray as long as another Christian. He doesn't mind my rambling thoughts and sentences that sometimes barely make sense.
I've gotten more comfortable praying. On one hand, there is awe and reverence that the King of Kings is paying attention to my ramblings..... but on the other hand is the knowledge that is my Heavenly Father who is delighted to hear from me. That is an amazing thought. Others might weary of my talking, but He never does.
I've gotten more comfortable telling people I am praying for them... and I do my best to carry through on that promise.
I may never "pray like a house on fire" as some people do. I may never pray for an hour a day, but I believe God is OK with that. I may never be comfortable praying in public, but I think He is OK with that also. He doesn't place qualifications on the length, volume, speed, or contents of my prayers..... He just wants to hear from me, and to speak to me.