I intended to work on entry over a period of a few days. But, this afternoon I sat down and the words just poured out…so, I share this from my heart, in the hopes that this may encourage someone somewhere.
Do you believe that prayer is a gift? I recently made the effort to sit and think about this question. I came to the conclusion that prayer is definitely a gift. What is unique and wonderful about prayer, though, is that it is a gift you can receive, give back to the Giver, give to your friends, give to your children…all of that and then receive it back again. Not only is it a gift from God, but it can be a gift from other believers back to you. Truly, prayer is the gift that keeps on giving. You can even regift with prayer!
Since prayer is a gift, a free gift at that, why do we not take advantage of this gift more often? I started this post to kind of share my prayer “testimony” if you will. I wanted to share, out of excitement, what God has done in my life regarding prayer. Because I believe He has brought me a long way, baby! I do still have sooooooo far to go. It is a journey. But, it is a journey I want to share.
I have known since being baptized and becoming a Christian at the age of 14yrs (and probably earlier) that prayer is important. When I was younger and in church, at church camp, in youth group, I was encouraged to spend daily “quiet time” with the Lord. Usually, for me, this amounted to a good devotion book and maybe a Psalm a day or something. Maybe a sentence or two of prayer at the end of that time.
As an adult, I have continued enjoying my “time” with the Lord, but usually that is because of a good book I’m reading. Not because I’m meeting with the King of kings and Lord of lords. Ouch. Was I actually meeting with the God of the universe? Did he really want to hear what I have to say? Better yet, did I really want to hear what He had to say?
So, how has all that changed? What have I done differently? It’s nothing I’ve done, at least I don’t believe so. It’s all Him. Prayer is a gift, but the original Giver is God. Prayer doesn’t work if I’m just trying to muster something up between me, myself and I. God has to be a part of this equation…talking TO Him, listening TO Him, sharing WITH Him, you get the point. I truly believe in my heart that my prayer life has grown because GOD was answering the prayers I prayed years ago. And, it most definitely did not happen overnight! This has been such a process…and quite honestly, I want it to continue to be a process. I don’t want it to end here. I don’t want the growth to stop. I want my time with the Lord to continue growing sweeter and sweeter as the years go by.
Are there conscious decisions we can make to work towards a better prayer life? Of course! Just because God is the giver of the gift, that doesn’t mean He won’t enable us with tools to use along the way. Here are a few of the things I’ve learned in my prayer journey.
I had to give up all expectations I had of prayer. This includes any previous idea of what prayer should look like. This also includes what prayer may look like in the lives of others! I thought prayer was supposed to be this hour long coversation each morning at 5am where I actually heard God, audibly, and He showed me deep and mysterious truths at each encounter. As you can see, I had to change my expectations a little bit.
I prayed and prayed for God to grow my prayer life. I wanted to be one of those people that others look to as prayer warriors. I asked God to grow me in this way. I fully believe He has granted me the desire of my heart in this area because He, too wanted that time with me.
I had to stop comparing myself to others. I would listen to others pray and think that *I* could never be a prayer warrior because my prayers didn’t sound as beautiful and eloquent as those I’ve heard from others. One thing I’ve had to learn about myself is that I’m just not talkative. I don’t enjoy “chatty” phone conversations. (Not because I don’t want to talk to you, but because I can’t think of what to say!) I have some serious communication “issues” in my life…so why would talking with God be any different than talking with someone else? I had to remind myself that God did create me…He knew I wasn’t going to be a public speaker…He knew that I wasn’t going to be verbose and just sit and talk for hours on end. You know what? I had to remind myself that God accepts me as I am…and so should I!
I had to stop reading books about prayer and just do it. I love reading, you probably already know that about me. There was a time in my life where I read lots of books on prayer. Don’t get me wrong, these were very good books! However, there comes a time when you just have to stop reading about something and actually put the thing you want to work on into action. I do not believe that practice makes perfect. I do believe that practice makes better. Just do it. Put the books away and just start talking to God.
I started praying the very Word of God. I told you, I’m not talkative, I don’t always know what to say. That’s ok! God has given us such a precious gift in His Word. Those are His Words to us, so how could they be wrong to say outloud and back to Him? I believe it was Beth Moore who really got me onto this habit, but I haven’t been able to let go of it since. (and I can’t find the exact place I thought I had read about this from her blog, sorry. It may have even been one of her Bible studies.) It is one of my biggest joys now to search the scriptures to pray over others and over myself. I just get giddy when I find the *perfect* verse for a certain situation or person.
Some of my favorite Scriptures to pray…usually the Psalms really get me excited. 🙂
Psalm 8 when I’m feeling awed by Him.
Psalm 16:5 for when I’m praying for contentment.
Psalm 16:7-11 when I’m praying over my children at night.
Psalm 18:1-3, 6, 16-19 when I’m struggling and need to be reminded that He does hear my cry.
Well, I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. Sometimes I just read them verbatim right out of the Scripture.
Sometimes I personalize the verse, like in Psalm 23. “Lord, You are my shepherd, I don’t need anything. Thank You for your provision. Thank You for giving me green pastures, thank You for leading me by quiet waters. Please guide me in the path of righteousness. I really need a guide, God help me to look to You to be that guide. And when I’m in the valley, and I know I will be in the valley at times, help me to fear no evil. Remind me that You are always with me. Sometimes I just need that reassurance of Your presence in my life. Thank You for comforting me. Thank You for preparing a place for me. You are giving me goodness and love all the days of my life. I praise, You, God.”
There are many verses from the New Testament as well. Ephesians 3:16-19 is an awesome prayer to pray over just about anybody in your life!
I have also made it a practice to pray all throughout my day. I stopped waiting for the perfect time. Because, honestly, the perfect time never came for me. If you’re a mom, you can understand that. When there is a child screaming, I pray for wisdom and patience. When we are having a great morning of school together, I thank God for a good few hours. When the orange juice spills for the 3rd time in an hour, I pray that God will hold my tongue. Tightly. You get the idea. This has really helped me to know and trust the presence of God throughout my entire day. In addition to short, sentence prayers throughout my day, I generally find time (at some point) during each day to steal away to my bedroom, get on my knees and spend time with God. I just don’t have it scheduled. Schedules just weren’t working with our life right now!
I steal others’ ideas. Now, I did encourage you to stop reading books and just do it. But, after I spent a few years of not reading books specifically on prayer, and after God had started burning the passion in my heart for prayer, He opened my eyes to a few wonderful resources that I can use over and over again. Angie, at Bring the Rain, has these beautiful verses that she prays over her children. I love this! I also love reading the 30 verses in the back of this book by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. I also love this book by Beth Moore on praying the Scriptures. Books like these are not just one-time reads. They are scriptures you can reference and pray time and time again. Remember, the gift that keeps on giving?
Well, I didn’t intend to write a how-to. And, honestly, that is not my intention with this post. I certainly am not an “expert” or someone who has “arrived.” These are just a few things I’ve learned along the way. A few ideas from one that is on this journey right beside you. I am always so encouraged when reading the blog, A Holy Experience, especially her posts on prayer and her recent posts on keeping a journal. I used to be a regular journaler. Maybe that is why I enjoy blogging so much. But, a few months ago I did start a prayer journal again. I love, love Ann’s ideas on the prayer journals. If you scroll down on that link I just posted, you can see her whole series of posts on journaling as a spiritual discipline.
This has gotten longer than I had intended. I feel like there is so much more I could share. And maybe someday I will. Topics like hearing God, praying doesn’t relieve suffering, praying in the midst of suffering and how that may look different, prayer journaling, praying with your children – these are all things on my heart. Lord willing, maybe there will be more prayer posts to come.
These days, I get excited to steal a few minutes on my knees beside my bed with my Bible and my Lord. What a joy – even through the tears that come at times. What a gift.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12