Monday, December 30, 2013

Portraits of Prayer - Week Three

This past summer, I wrote a 7-week prayer guide entitled Portraits of Prayer. As I began investigating prayer ministry more deeply this past summer, I realized that over the years, God has already given me an abundance of insight on the subject of prayer. As I reread these insights from past blogs, I was struck at how the progression of insight fell right into place--as if it were a study guide of sorts. Taking those blogs with some additions and rewriting, I wrote Portraits of Prayer and I am happy to share it with you here over the next eight weeks. Wait, I said 7-week prayer guide didn't I? Why eight weeks then? Well, I thought it appropriate to take a short break during the week of Christmas so that we may focus on the coming of the Savior. Enjoy!


Prayer – It Takes Two to Converse

Young Man praying

digitally altered in Photoshop
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18(NIV) tells us to “pray continually...for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” and Ephesians 6:16 (NIV) instructs us to "pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests." God wants us to talk to him about everything. He wants us to share our desires, our frustrations and questions, our weaknesses and repentance directly with him—all of it, all the time. This is his will. It can be kind of intimidating to approach the Creator of the Universe, the Lord and King of all. But like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz, we do not approach him alone. He has given us the Holy Spirit to hold our hand, to encourage us and even to speak for us when we can't utter a word and it is with this Companion by our side that we converse with a Holy God with confidence and joy, sharing all that is on our hearts.

Prayer is how God reveals his desires and directives to us. It's how he communicates with us. Too often, over the last few years, I've found myself at a ministry meeting where the meeting was opened and closed in prayer and I wondered why. Were we in fact inviting God into our midst, seeking his will for his Church? Or were we praying (speaking a short monologue in God's direction) because prayer was the first item on the agenda, because it's a church meeting and it just seems like something we should do? Did we expect a response from God?

I'm asking myself if I, as I pray, expect God to answer. Am I listening for his voice in the conversation? Am I talking with God or speaking at him? And I admit that I am disappointed with my answers. But, here's the good news—God is still happy to speak with me and spend time with me. He isn't holding my inconsistency against me, but encouraging me to grow and build on the foundation of faith that is there. He has not taken his Spirit from me and, in fact, has been guiding me all along, even when I didn't stop to seek his guidance.

God is tenacious in his love for us always and is faithful to his promise to never leave us. He is our God and we are his people. That doesn’t change in God’s eyes during those moments when we neglect to include him—THE omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, Eternal God—in the conversation. If it's been a while since you've had a real conversation with God, I encourage you to do it right now. Do not fear, for you are not approaching God as the cowardly lion trembling as he makes his way to the throne room of the great and powerful Wizard of Oz, but as a child running home yelling, "Guess what Daddy, guess what!" God is waiting for you to start the conversation so that he can tell you how much he loves you.

To have God speak to the heart is a majestic experience, an experience that people may miss if they monopolize the conversation and never pause to hear God's responses.
 —Charles Stanley

Prayer is not monologue, but dialogue. Gods voice in response to mine is its most essential part.
—Andrew Murray

Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one's heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty.
—Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Do you approach God in prayer as the cowardly lion or as a child running into his father’s arms? Are you talking with God or at God? What do you need to do to make your prayer time more of a two-way conversation? Take some time in prayer concentrating on listening to God’s part of the conversation.

1 comment:

Audrey said...

I love your phrase..."He has not taken His Spirit from me". It is so comforting to know that in spite of my inconsistency He is never inconsistent with His loving care for me. I'm going to work more on listening for His voice instead of always hearing mine in prayer! Happy New Year and God bless your ministry.