I have never felt like a good “prayer-er”. I grew up in the church hearing the phrase, “powerful prayer life”. The definition of that was vague — like you only understood if you actually had a powerful prayer life. So I was out. When I met Jesus and fell in love, I wanted to pray a lot because I wanted to know Jesus better, and the people I admired in history prayed a lot. I wasn’t far off — seeing as the Bible gives over 200 examples of prayers, including Jesus’ own prayers. But even in all the hours of praying that I did, I look back and feel like I was missing something. Once I had kids, the biggest question that rolled around my head was, For the love, how does a mom of young kids find that much time to pray? So my prayers were filled with asking God, teach me how to pray. In the new territory of babies and sleepless nights, projectile vomit and poopy diapers, dishes and caring for a home, I needed some insight into what prayer was for, how I should do it, and what the results should be. Because God cares about us and our needs, He’s been teaching me along the way. I want to share what I’ve learned — not because I’m so qualified — but because all of us, even us weak ones, are called to encourage each other. And I want desperately to encourage you to press on — because you were born for this time in history, and there are people your called to love, and there’s a place for you at the table — if we’re willing to keep going and not let discouragement keep us back.
Prayer Is A Lifestyle
Being a follower of Jesus defines us as disciples. A learner, student, apprentice. There is no way to be a Christian and not be a learner, student, apprentice, disciple of Jesus. Most of us probably imagine a student as someone sitting silently, listening to a long lecture. But that is not the kind of student they had when the Bible was written. Students were primarily taught through observation, conversation, experience and application. Prayer is our constant communication with our teacher — and we need constant conversation because to live like Him is impossible on our own! To apply all His teachings, to live our lives the way we’re meant to, will require constant supernatural wisdom, guidance, encouragement, insight, and power. Seeking all this from God, that is prayer. A constant acknowledged dependance on God in our commitment to live like He teaches us to live. Prayer is a lifestyle, and the more you apply the Word in your life, the more desperately you’ll need to pray! So if we’re struggling in our prayer life, checking our lifestyle to see if it matches what God’s called it to be is a must.
Prayer + Obedience = Powerful
We’ve all been guilty of pulling a verse out of the bible that we like, and memorizing it completely out of context. In James 5, we’re presented with instructions on how we’re meant to live life. Spread throughout is references to prayer — the one I hear most is, The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. This is great! But the context is a little meaty. Right before the verse we all like is a call to action — confessing our sins to one another. James is giving instructions on how to live together as the church. If we’re sick because of sin, we are given a solution — deal with the sin and God will set us free both from our sin and its negative impact on our lives. In that context, the urgent confession and prayer for forgiveness is powerful and effective — according to God. Prayer is effective and powerful when its married to obedience (application)! I pray for God to give me wisdom, and then I have to apply what God says about asking for wisdom: Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. (James 1) That is when we’ll start seeing our prayers being powerful in our lives — when our communication and prayer life is in and on and all around our obedience to God’s Word.
Prayer Is Dynamic
Prayer is communication with God. And like any communication, it should be back and forth. Our prayers, or communication with God can look many ways — a cry for help, words of praise or love, speaking out who God is and what He does in order to remind ourselves and help us believe in our hearts what we know in our minds, asking for wisdom, or provision, asking for mercy on ourselves or others, repenting for wrong thinking or actions, thanking God. But how does God speak back to us? The Bible gives us lots of examples — and I loved the study Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. Here is a short list of ways God speaks to us:
- The Bible — This is always the standard
- The Holy Spirit in our hearts — a sensing or “gut feeling”
- People — The Church is called to fully represent Jesus on earth
- Dreams —The Bible is full of examples of God speaking to us in dreams or even visions
Prayer has many faces. Its meant to be done in private and with other believers. It can be done on the run, while busy doing what we’re called to do. There are times when we have to set aside time to slow our brains down and engage with God without any distractions. Sometimes we don’t even know what to pray, and we just sit before God, silent. Sometimes we don’t know what to pray and the Spirit of God in us actually cries out to God for us, when we have no words! Prayer is dynamic and not stagnant. Don’t box it in, and on the flip side, don’t be content with the one side you feel most comfortable with!
God Loves Prayers Of Faith
After I got married, I wasn’t content renting, and quickly started dragging Dave around to all sorts of money-pits. How sad that I wasted all that time and effort instead of being thankful for what I had! God gave me a few years to learn how to be content, and then one day He said, ‘GO’ and Dave found a house that we loved! I was so excited! The whole process was complex, and had lots of unexpected hurdles. Until the second we signed closing papers, there were complications that meant we might not get the house. We never for a moment had a gaurentee. During the first few months of this, my biggest prayer went something like, Pleeeeeeeeease God, please give us this house! Original, I know. But God gently stopped me one day as I was launching into my mantra again. There was something in my prayer that didn’t quite trust that God’s plan would be best, if it didn’t involve this house. I wanted what I wanted, and I wanted to convince God that this was best. Friends, loved sons and daughters don’t need to manipulate God. A relationship where I trust that God is who He says He is, that He is always good, and has the best in mind for me; it gives me the power to present my requests to God without clinging to it more than I cling to Him. The prayer that Jesus prayed before He was crucified, Not my will, but Your will be done (Luke 22), is the most freeing prayer we can pray. The prayer of faith doesn’t depend on our own merits, desires or skills in prayer; the prayer of faith depends on Jesus merits, desires and authority. God loves prayers that are rooted in faith; believing that God is who He says He is. There are a lot of unknowns on this earth, but our hearts can be at peace when we trust that God is good and His ways are best. And if we aren’t sure what His will and ways are?? Read on…
Hearing God Requires Studying The Word
I referenced earlier that prayer is a lifestyle. For followers of Jesus, we are required to live a certain way — outlined for us in the teachings of Jesus and his disciples. This might seem obvious, but unless we read the Word, we won’t know the way we’re called to live! We can understand God’s ways and will through His Word. Communication with God is us responding to His Word…in words, heart and action. God is constantly reaching out to us — through nature, through people, through circumstances, and through His Word. But our communication with Him will be limited if we’re ignoring the most precious source of His voice we have — the Word. So take the time to study and learn the way of life that God has called us to! I know I’ve always had a hard time knowing what to read, and how to read the Bible. There are tons of books on the subject — but don’t spend too much time reading tons of books on how to read the bible, because time is usually limited and you probably won’t read the bible as much ? This article by Jen Wilkin is an outline of how to read and study the bible — I found it very helpful, and quite honestly, if followed, life changing.
My final go-to in prayer when it’s hard, or I feel aimless in my prayer life, is to open up the bible and start praying some of the prayers in there. Adopt the words of men and women in history who cried out to God — it gets our hearts going in the right direction. ?
I have asked one thing from the Lord; it is what I desire: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, gazing on the beauty of the Lord and seeking Him in His temple. (Psalm 27)
You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29)