I know not everyone has a great relationship with their mom, but for the most part, mom needs to hear from you regularly. You’re her baby and she wants to know everything going on in your life. It could be getting together for dinner a couple of times a month, sitting around for a few minutes after picking the kids up from her babysitting or a good old phone call. Mom wants to hear from you.
The same is true of God. Remember I’ve said that Jesus is God (the whole Holy Trinity thing) and that Jesus wants to be you’re friend. It’s hard to have a close friendship if you never speak to each other and why would it be any different with Jesus?
In order for us to really have Jesus be a big part of our lives, we have to stay in contact, the best way to do that is to “Pray without ceasing” as Paul put it in 1 Thessalonians. But what does that really mean? How can you never stop praying?
With faith, everything seems so easy. Just keep an open phone line with God and that’s it! But as everything with faith, it’s not really that easy at all. Life gets in the way. Other friendships get in the way. Stress, anger, sin, frustration, exhaustion, selfishness all get in the way. There are many times where we simply don’t want to be praying. We just want what we want and are going to do what we have to do!
But it never seems to work out so well when we try to do things ourselves, does it? For the majority of my life (and much of my spiritual life) I had that mentality. Not really intentionally, but by our nature we are selfish and impulsive. Always wanting to feel like we have some sort of control. That’s definitely me. I would have a big decision to make and I’d just use my best judgement. I’d be facing a major struggle and I’d pull up my britches and fight my way through it like a man. I’d have a gaping hole in my heart and just feel empty and long for something different.
So what exactly is prayer?
Many people have the idea that you have to use Old English, like in the King James Version of the Bible. Or that you have to use big words to describe how high and mighty God is. Or even, gasp, use a false reverence and make it seem like you are an unworthy piece of dog poo on God’s sandal and have no business speaking to him, but beg for an audience anyway. Maybe it was just me and how I looked at prayer, but after speaking with people, it seems that their ideas of prayer are, or at least were, somewhere along those lines too. I truly don’t believe that this is prayer! It’s just pomp and circumstance and a bunch of nonsense.
Prayer is very simple. It’s you speaking to God. You don’t have to be eloquent. You don’t have to be lengthy and wordy. You don’t have to do anything other than speak to God. Simple as that!
He wants you to pour out your heart to him. He wants to hear what is causing you a bunch of fear and anxiety. He wants to hear what you’re struggling with. He wants you to bring your doubts to Him. He wants to know what is going great in your life and what you’re thankful for. He wants to hear your dreams. He wants to know that you can be real with Him.
As I said, I really struggled with actually praying. I was kind of a “crap is hitting the fan I’d better call Jesus and see what He can do to fix this” kind of prayer. I’d wait until there was a problem, beg and plead, ask for it to be fixed and I’d be a better Christian and blah blah blah. And things would work out somehow (not always the way I wanted, but the storm ended) and I would pray once a day for a couple more days and then it would fizzle out until the next crisis. It was a battle for me to take a few minutes to speak with Jesus. I didn’t have the time, I didn’t know what to say, etc.
And I would NEVER pray out loud with anyone. I was way too embarrassed to be able to do that. If I prayed, it was silently when I was alone.
About 8 months ago I challenged myself. I knew that something was really missing from my spiritual life and I kept hearing about prayer. Over and over. At our community group, in church, in my devotions, posts on Facebook. Just a barrage of “PRAYER”. So I decided that I would be intentional about praying. Every single day! I bought a small notebook to keep with me to write down names and situations of people that I heard about that could use prayer. I would take a few seconds to quickly and silently lift them up in prayer, write them down in my book and then spend more time praying about them and others that I had jotted down later on.
I started expanding my prayers to more than just some people who I had heard were struggling. I started adding in my friends and family. I began to pray for my job and my feelings towards it. I began to pray for my guitar skills to improve to serve Him better on the worship team. I began to pray for literally EVERYTHING and anything I could. It seemed as though I was going to God at least once an hour each and every day with something, even if it was just for a few seconds to add a name and situation.
Soon, prayer just became a part of what I do. It became almost as easy as walking. And then I did the unthinkable! I prayed with my wife for the first time! It was so liberating to be able to do that! We are supposed to pray with our spouses, but I never had. I will admit that we don’t pray with each other every day like we should. There have been some big gaps in our couple prayers again, but I know that I can pray with her. And there have been some times during this difficult season that we are in where after we had prayed, my heart seemed so much lighter.
With the inclusion of prayer in my life came some spiritual blessings. I know that I can go to Jesus and tell Him about everything that is weighing me down and breaking me mentally and emotionally. I can rely on Him to really listen and hear me when my heart is breaking and that He will empathize and understand. I know that I can give Him my burdens and lighten the load that I carry. I can take some weight off and have some peace about what’s going on in my life.
Now the thing about God is…He’s not a genie in a bottle. You don’t get everything you ask for. Not everyone you pray for will be healed. Not every job you want will be yours. Not every financial situation will be resolved with you winning the lottery. We can’t see the big picture, only the small fragment that is our life. We can’t even see what’s coming up for us, sometimes He throws us a curveball that we don’t expect, because in the big picture, it works out for His glory. His plan is perfect, ours is pretty flawed.
But as you pray more, you begin to see some things that you missed completely before. It may be some doors that He is opening. It may be some changes in your heart. God is always working and He is always working on us. As our relationship deepens, we begin to realize that we need to follow His will for us and our lives and that may be completely different from anything we had thought of or wanted for ourselves. We learn to accept what He is offering to us, where He is leading us. And that deepens the relationship further, restarting the cycle and taking us further down the journey through faith.
There is no right or wrong way to pray. Jesus gave us an example of how to pray. “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matt. 6:9-13).
He doesn’t overly praise God and tell Him that He isn’t worthy. He simply shows us to tell God that we think He’s great, ask God to provide for us, to forgive us the way we forgive those who wrong us and to help us avoid sin. Pretty simple outline to follow. But you have to make it your own, He’s just providing an example of what prayer looks like.
Now back to Paul. How do we pray without ceasing? We go to God throughout our day, with each obstacle, decision, emotion. We bring it to Him and ask for His direction. We ask Him to take some of the burden of our stress through out the day as it comes. Think of it like texting your best friend. You don’t really have to have a huge conversation about each and every little thing, but you may text them after dealing with a difficult customer or coworker with something along the lines of “You won’t believe what this person just said to me.” You can bring that to God in much the same way. “Father, this person really got on my nerves and pushed the anger button. Please help me calm down and control my reaction to be able to show the love of Christ to a person that I’m having a problem with.” Or “Father, forgive me for how I reacted to this person, I know it wasn’t the best way to handle the situation. Give me the strength to apologize sincerely and keep the next conversation peaceful.”
Maybe you have a difficult decision to make. “Father, please help guide me in how to handle this situation. I don’t really like any of the options, but help me do what is right.”
When we keep an open line of communication, God seems much less like a genie that is there to grant wishes and more like a mentor that we trust. He becomes a friend that can help us do the right thing, even when we don’t want to or see the right option. He can give us a sense of peace in a situation where all we can feel is overwhelmed.
I challenge you to give prayer a shot. Push yourself to pray every single day for a month and see how He works in your life. You don’t have to have all the right words to say, just speak your heart and He will hear you.