Do you pray? I’m guessing you do. Do you sometimes wish you prayed more often, more consistently or even better?
One of my fondest memories of my time at Seminary is the ritual of prayer I shared with two dear friends. We would arise early, make our way down to the basement of an adjoining dorm, and pray together. Often, we’d be in our pajamas and jackets. We would begin by walking alone through the basement (it was quite large) and praying. Our personal quiet time with God. At the end of the time we would come together and pray. It made for a wonderful start of the day, and I cherish that time even now, many years later.
We often talk about prayer and speaking to God. It’s an easy and comfortable conversation most of the time. How often have we heard, “My friend is very sick, please keep him in prayer” or “Pray for our daughter, she has some important decisions to make” type of requests? When we hear information from friends or colleagues that seems to warrant prayer, it’s common to throw out a “I’ll be praying for you” remark. Sometimes we even follow through!
Sure, some of us may feel convicted that we should pray more. Most of us would like to pray “better” and be more consistent. But I feel like we’d have a hard time finding a fellow believer who discounted the importance of prayer. It’s a command by our Lord (Matt. 6) and Peter reminds us to bring all our concerns to God (1 Peter 5). In Matthew 7 Jesus tells us to keep asking, keep seeking and keep knocking. The idea isn’t hard. Clearly, praying is important, and it results in being obedient to what God tells us to do in His word.
While I may not feel like the most eloquent believer when communicating with God, I find comfort in knowing that the the Holy Spirit “autocorrects” (Rom. 8:26) my mumblings to the Father. I am reminded of this wonder often when my phone corrects my texts. I smile and am thankful for this ministry of the Spirit and how it makes me think of God. I feel confident that God listens to my prayers. The psalmist says, “God has listened; He has paid attention to the sound of my prayer” (Ps. 66). Jeremiah likewise brings comfort and assurance in saying, “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you” (Jer. 29:12). I know without doubt that God answers prayers (Matt. 21:22).
If I look at the 5W1H questions (the five W’s and one H) of prayer I find this:
- What- talking to God
- When – often. More precisely, more often than I do
- Where – for best results, the answer is always “in private”
- Why – because I need to, and because I want to
- Who – God, me, sometimes others
- How – In terms of how to pray, I find I very often still follow the “ACTS” model of prayer. Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication.
Of course, sometimes I’ll spend the entire time of prayer in adoration. Sometimes in thanksgiving. Less often in confession, if I’m honest. A lot of the times I drift to the comfort zone of supplication.
But really, prayer isn’t a checklist or a formula to follow. Prayer is part of a relationship. We know this already.
I feel pretty good about the “God-side” of the prayer relationship.
What I’d like to become better at in my prayer life is the “me-side” of the relationship. Specifically, I’d like to learn to listen. I am tempted to say, “listen better,” but I think if I leave the “better” off the sentence it rings truer for me. Oddly, I think I’ve over-developed my looking sense when it comes to prayer. I’ll talk to God about something or someone, and then I’ll watch. I’ll look. Can I see God moving in the circumstances? Can I see His hand in the lives or things I’ve prayed for? What do I see Him doing? I know He tells us to be still (Ps. 46). Okay. I’ve gotten better at that with time. But I still find myself watching when I’m still.
Why is it so difficult to listen? God tells us that His sheep know His voice (John 10). I know the voice of my savior. I long for the voice of my savior. But I’d like to learn to listen more to His voice. I want to hear what He is telling me more. I need to hear what He is telling me more.
This week, my prayer is simple: Lord, help me listen. Help me hear.