If you’re at all like me, you pray. You talk to God. You voice your worries to Him. You ask for His help. You hope He’ll hear you and do something. And you celebrate when He does!
Over the years my prayer life has ebbed and flowed. It has had seasons of deep, fervent engagement with the Most Holy One. And it’s had moments of divine intervention. More than not, though, my prayer life has been full of quick quips with God and even quicker, stolen moments where I speak short words and phrases that I hope convey my heart and hopes to Him…prayers that have been described as “popcorn,” “breath,” or “arrow” prayers.
And there’s nothing wrong with those.
But…wow. I have been most moved and changed by those seasons where my prayer life was so much more. And I wonder why I can’t “pray like that” more often, more consistently.
My own questioning seems to be echoed by many I live and work and serve with, so I’m becoming convinced that most of us struggle with having a consistent, meaningful prayer life.
I’m in a season now where I am reading a daily “devotion,” which is really much more of a lesson, on prayer (The Daily Text by J.D. Walt, from Seedbed.com)…at a time, no less, when I agreed to teach a four-part series on prayer!
I’m not one to believe in coincidences, so instead, I look for God when things appear coincidental.
And sure enough – God’s all over this. J.D. Walt’s deep devotions on prayer have stretched me and caused me to look at prayer differently, and the challenges I wrestle through I take to the poor, unsuspecting people in our Sunday morning class.
I’m learning all over again what’s always been true in my life – to teach a topic is to really learn the topic.
So instead of just reading (or in my case, listening) to J.D.’s daily devotion each day, I’m now printing them out and pouring over them to better understand, to make connections, and to find a way to present what I’m learning to an audience.
With his permission, I’m bringing my musings and ponderings to you, as well. Maybe there’s something in all of this that will speak to you and cause you to look to God in a fresh way or speak to Him with more confidence and, well, empowerment.
Here goes –
Let’s start by thinking about new experiences…because these lessons on prayer that will come from the context of Creation (and beyond) might feel like a new experience.
New Shoes. They look great. But they can rub blisters. Yet they look so good that you’re willing to keep wearing them with the hope of “breaking them in” till they’re comfortable.
New Home. Whether you chose to move or not, being the new one in town comes with its challenges. Loneliness and lost-ness to name two. But over time, you meet new people and start making friends. And before you know it, you’ve grown roots and feel like you’re home.
Spiritual practices, like prayer, can work much the same way. When they’re new, we can feel very awkward and uncomfortable. Maybe even down-right challenged. But if we stick with those practices long enough, not only do we get more comfortable and develop a new normal, but we start to see fruit from them.
If, along the way on this particular journey, you start to feel discomfort or even challenged by what is said, seek God and try to stick with it. Maybe it’s a season of God trying to stretch you a bit and equip you with a better understanding of what prayer really is.
I know I’ve felt all these things, and I’m still “breaking” it all in. But I’m also seeing some fruit already – that God is working something new in me and even in a few of the people in the class I’m sharing all this with. So that encourages me to keep leaning into it to discover what else God has for us in this.
Part of this exploration led me to start a list of all the experiences I’ve had with prayer in my life. What developed was unexpected and full of insight and ah-ha’s.
I started with trying to remember my earliest prayer experiences – things like bedtime prayers and meal time “grace.” I can recall lying in bed at night talking to Jesus as if He were in the bed next to me.
I wish I would‘ve kept that practice up! Instead, I feel like the rest of my prayer journey has been trying to recapture that relationship, trust, and closeness.
But as I kept brainstorming all my experiences, I recalled the time in college I got away to a quiet place with God and prayed a “surrender” prayer – I was willing to let go of a relationship, choosing to put my trust in God’s desire for my life. That was a turning point for me because He proved to be oh-so faithful as I continued to surrender more and more of my life to Him.
Since then I have had some amazing people teach me how to pray through classes, personal experiences, and even through their modeling.
Specifically, there was the time I joined a women’s group at my new church. They met monthly, and at the end of each gathering, they’d circle up, holding hands, and pray together, allowing for each woman in the circle to say her needs and praises aloud.
Nope, not me! No way.
So, for months, I’d squeeze the hand of the woman next to me, indicating I elected to “pass” rather than pray aloud.
…Till that time I really wanted to have these ladies pray for something important to me – and the only way to let them know to pray was to say it…aloud. On my turn, I took a deep breath, heart beating loudly, and squeaked out my request as quickly as possible.
Now, it didn’t happen overnight, but in the months and years that followed I grew more comfortable with this practice, more confident. But it all started in a most uncomfortable way…but it was a start! And it marks a huge step on my prayer journey.
Another big step was when I sensed the Holy Spirit prompting me to go up to the altar to join a friend who was in great turmoil. This was at a women’s retreat, and I was already pretty far out of my comfort zone. But I just knew I was supposed to go up there. I finally relented, but I told God (haha) that He’d have to take care of the praying. I was just going up there for moral support.
And what did He do? He provided! I tentatively knelt down next to my friend and put my arm around her. It felt awkward yet right. Before I knew it, several other women, I’d call prayer warriors, came behind us, encircling us. And they prayed. Oh man, did they pray. I get chill bumps just remembering their voices.
I have loved recalling these experiences…and so many more. I’ve begun to realize they have shaped me and made me the believer and pray-er that I am today.
I encourage you to do the same. Take some time to make a list of all the memories, experiences, and lessons you’ve had in prayer…because they make-up who you are too. All of them. Good and bad. They have shaped you and influenced you in ways you may not realize.
And it sure helps to be able to move forward on a journey when you know where you’ve been, where you’re coming from.
Next time we’re together, we’re gonna dive into Genesis 1. Get ready for a good stretching!
Loving this prayer thing,