Prayer is mysterious. We are drawn to it when we don’t know what else to do or when we feel helpless. I remember on 9/11/01 our country became a praying nation. We were scared, and we were confused. We hadn’t done anything to warrant such a violent attack, and we didn’t know how many more attacks may happen. It is said there are no atheists in a foxhole, meaning those caught in a foxhole under fire are praying whether they ever did before or not.
Prayer is communication with God. Whether we are desperate or if we are regular pray-ers, prayer is communication with God. I don’t believe prayer has a prescribed way of communicating. There is no particular language or posture or place. The Bible says we should pray without ceasing, and it also implies we should pray in a closet. If I were stuck in a closet all day, you can bet some of that time if not all of it I would be praying!
The disciples lived in close communication with Jesus, the Son of God, and yet they asked Jesus to teach them how to pray. Was it because they had heard him pray and wanted the same beautiful communication with God that He had? Or was it the times they felt defeated when Jesus sent them out to minister, and they wished they had a better prayer life?
I have a horrible habit of charging right into everything I do, and my motive is getting the project done. I approach prayer that way. I don’t actually stand and rub my hands together as one might do after finishing a task, but I might as well. “There, that’s done!”
Sometimes I tell people I will pray for them with the full intention of doing so, and then I forget all about it. Or I think their request needs some serious thought on how to pray, so I wait until a more convenient time when I’m alone, but it never happens. Sometimes I simply say the name Jesus as a way of giving the situation to him because I don’t know much about it. I have a friend I admire very much who starts praying for me while we are talking together when I mention a concern of mine. Really! I love it!
Spending Time With God
I have changed my method of prayer from telling God what I want, how I want it, and how I want him to accomplish the answer. Thank God for his Grace. Despite my strange “know-it-all” prayers I did get answers, and I got what I prayed for, but in a way that was so far out of the box, I kept God in that I stopped telling God how to answer my prayers. I changed my method to admitting God doesn’t need my advice on how to do anything and apologizing when I confine him to my finite ideas. I simply put my request in his hand and admit I trust him with it and that however he wants to answer it is okay with me. I acknowledge that his plan for whatever I am praying about is far beyond my understanding, and I pray God will do his mighty works.
All that is probably okay. At least I’m not bossing God around as though I know so much. The problem is it doesn’t feel like communication. It feels more like taking the pressure off and not taking responsibility for what I told someone I would do. So many times, I don’t honestly know what to pray because I don’t see the situation ultimately.
I was reading a book by my favorite author, John Eldredge. His devotional, Restoration Year, had a series of entries about prayer. He has written a book on prayer titled, Moving Mountains, which I think these entries were excerpts. He wrote that when someone asks him to pray for them, he doesn’t just charge into prayer as I do. He prays in partnership with God. Instead of just placing the request in God’s hand, he asks God what he should pray for the person asking for prayer.
Many times when we pray, we don’t really know what to pray for or what the real problem might be. We may ask for immediate relief from a challenge. We may ask for a job that gives us a sense of purpose. We may ask for justice in some cases. These are all excellent prayers, but they may not be the answers God has to bless us. There are many things we can learn from pain; God may have a purpose for us in the job we have; our idea of justice may not be God’s. The question—what do you want me to pray—is communication that partners us with God on behalf of the request.
Asking what to pray in any situation is two-way communication. Hearing from God and receiving his direction helps us partner with him and learn from him. It slows us down so we take the request seriously as we would a precious gift.