No doubt about it, Bible study and prayer are key factors in our spiritual growth. It is almost impossible to grow from simply knowing about Jesus to knowing Jesus without spending time reading and studying the Bible and having some sort of prayer life. These two disciplines along with being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit are indispensible ingredients for anyone who is serious about their relationship with God.
In numerous posts we have talked about prayer and its importance in our relationship with God. I’ve been wondering lately about the language of prayer, and if there are any forms or structure involved in speaking to God. Last time I wrote about prayer I mentioned that we have too high of expectations regarding prayer and should look at prayer more realistically. I by no means wanted to insinuate that we shouldn’t take our petitions and needs to God believing that He hears us and answers. I was trying to make the point that God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we think He should or the way we want Him to answer.
The Lord’s Prayer teaches us instead, we should pray “Lord thy will be done”. This to me is the key regarding our prayer life yet it is so easy to forget. I know I become so wrapped up in praying for something that I desire to see happen that I forget it is God’s will that needs to be inserted into the equation and not my own desire. It is difficult for us to accept that God’s will may not be our will concerning a dying parent or sick relative. For us to understand that God is in control and knows best is very difficult indeed. Sometimes I just want to shout out, “do it God,” but I understand that isn’t how our relationship works. God is not a dancing puppet that jumps up and down every time we pull a string. He is the infinite God of the Universe that is Holy and Just, all knowing and all caring and when we come to understand that we are a long way down the trail in our spiritual journey.
The language of prayer can become quite repetitive when we are praying for Uncle Bill or Aunt Jane to give their lives to God week in and week out. I recently read an article that suggests we need to pray for specific things and back away from general prayer. Let me see if I can give an example. If we are praying for Uncle Bill to give his life to Christ maybe we could change the prayer to, how can I personally influence uncle Bill. Or we could pray that God would bring a friend into his life that would influence him. To be even more specific we could pray that the next time we see Uncle Bill we would find an opportunity to speak to him and the Holy Spirit would have his heart open to a discussion on spiritual matters.
I was watching a church planting video from a pastor involved with the Church of the Nazarene. He mentioned that when he moved to the city where he was to start the church, he didn’t know anyone. He began to pray that God would lead him in conversations when he met people to be able to talk about the new church plant. He said over and over God led the conversation in such a way that he was able to talk about his plans. Naturally, a person has to be perceptive to any openings in the conversation, but it is prayer that we should practice. To start the day out by asking God to lead in our conversations and specifically with certain people that we are praying for can have amazing results.
Our prayer life doesn’t have to be dull and repetitive. It can be creative and specifically geared to situations and individuals. When we pray this way our prayers do take longer and we must concentrate more deeply on what we are saying, but the rewards for our own spirituality and in the lives of others are well worth it.
All of what I’ve just written has to be taken in context that we are praying to the God of creation. I know skeptics say we are just talking to ourselves or to the ceiling, but that is their problem, not ours. I often wonder why we are so reluctant to spend more time talking to God or we rush through our prayers as if they are something we have to do. Prayer is a privilege that should be taken with gratitude and thanksgiving. If you were to try and talk to your favorite movie star or sports figure you wouldn’t get far, but here is God, willing and waiting for your communication.
Prayer changes as we grow closer to God and we grow closer to God through prayer. Though we may have a specific time set aside for prayer, we can pray anytime throughout the day or night. Our lives can become a world of prayer. What is really important, however, is that we pray and we pray with an honest open heart for God to be in our lives, forgive our sins, and that we may be a blessing to others.