By Vicki Edwards
Through prayer we have the amazing privilege of speaking with the Author of Life, the Creator of the Cosmos, the Designer of DNA. We were not created to live independently from God, but to live in complete dependence and in constant communion with him.
Honesty Before God
I have spent much prayer time explaining to God why I did certain things. I have presented exhaustive arguments defending the logic of my choices. Then one day it struck me. God knows. He not only knows what I did and why I did it, he knows what would have worked better.
Author and minister Chip Ingram explains that putting on the “belt of truth” (Ephesians 6) means cultivating a lifestyle of honesty with God and with ourselves.
I have known a greater joy and peace since I’ve learned to be honest before God and seek his truth. As I bring up my concern, I sit quietly, focusing on who he is.
He Is God
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:1, 2).
Sometimes we focus on problems, issues, and people until we find ourselves spinning the same thoughts over and over in our minds. But when we focus on God—how powerful, able, loving, wise, and near he is—our problems shrink in comparison. Our list of prayer concerns should never become our “to do” list for God. He is the wise one. It’s more appropriate for us to lift a person or concern to God, acknowledging that he loves us and knows what is best for us. As we praise God for who he is and what he is already doing for the person or with the situation, we can ask, “God, what can I do to be aligned with you on this issue? What would you like me to do here?” Then watch for an opportunity or insight.
A Two-Way Conversation
We may sing, “He walks with me and he talks with me,” but do we believe this? Sometimes we act as if prayer is merely talking at God. The most exciting breakthrough in our prayer life is when we learn that prayer is dialogue.
Consider how the prophet Habakkuk
communicated with God.
I will climb up to my watchtower
and stand at my guardpost.
There I will wait to see what the Lord says
and how he will answer my complaint.
Then the Lord said to me,
‘Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others’ (Habakkuk 2:1, 2, New Living Translation).
Then the Lord said to me . . .
The prophet laid out his
complaint before the Lord and then he waited. The Lord spoke and the prophet wrote down what he said.
Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). The Bible is filled with accounts of people who recognized God speaking to them. It simply doesn’t tell us how we recognize his voice.
What might God’s voice to us sound like? How do we experience it? Author Mark Virkler explains, “God’s voice is sensed as a spontaneous thought, idea, word, feeling, or vision.” In other words, it is the answer, picture, thoughts, or emotions that come to you when you are seeking God’s truth on a matter. Rarely audible, his voice is perceived in the mind.
Jesus said, “‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive” (John 7:37-39, NIV).
Since God’s Spirit lives within us, we will experience God’s voice as coming from within, quietly affecting our own thoughts. Even so, not everything we perceive—even while praying—is the voice of God. Scripture tells us to test all things. We ask God to confirm what we believe to be from him. The Holy Spirit may help affirm to us with his peace and assurance that a message is from God. God’s Word to us in prayer will never contradict his Word to us in Scripture, nor will it ever contradict his character (loving, patient, holy, just, and gracious). When making major life decisions, we are wise to submit what we believe to be from God to mature Christian friends.
Author Max Lucado says, “Make it a point to stop and listen for a while before you read [a] devotional or your Bible. Ask God to help you listen for him. . . . Make a note . . . of the thoughts God brings to mind as you are listening for him. You don’t want to forget what God says to you.”
The Ultimate Goal
We often come to God with questions. We are weary and ready for solutions. We want God’s direction. And although our lives will exhibit godly behaviors when we are aligned with God’s will and ways, Christianity is a faith based on relationship, not performance. God says everything of value that comes from our life will flow out of our relationship and communion with him (John 15). When we read the prayers Paul offered for people, we see that growing in the knowledge of God and his love for us is the apostle’s prescription for life. When we begin to grasp the dimensions of God’s love for us, fears fade and insecurities lose their grip. We can hardly worry about our needs (emotional, physical, or relational) being met when we recognize God as the Almighty Healer-Provider who is always thinking about us.
When you spend time alone with him, ask him to show you how he feels about you. He is the Master at expressing love.
Pray Without Ceasing
Is this an impossible command? How can we pray while asleep, working, or reconciling the checkbook? Author Max Lucado suggests a helpful thought shift.
Think of prayer less as an activity for God and more as an awareness of God. Seek to live in uninterrupted awareness. Acknowledge his presence everywhere you go. As you stand in line to register your car, think, Thank you, Lord, for being here. In the grocery as you shop, Your presence, my king, I welcome. As you wash the dishes, worship your maker.
Missionary Frank Laubach made continual thoughts of God his passion in life. Below is an entry from his journal.
January 29, 1930
I feel simply carried along each hour, doing my part in a plan that is far beyond myself. This sense of cooperation with God in little things is what so astonishes me, for I never have felt it this way before. I need something, and turn round to find it waiting for me. I must work, to be sure, but there is God working along with me. To know this gives a sense of security and assurance for the future that is also new to my life. I seem to have to make sure of only one thing now, and every other thing ‘takes care of itself,’ or I prefer to say what is more true, God takes care of all the rest.
The life of a person who has the Spirit of the Living God within him or her should be radically different than someone without this incredible indwelling. We should live free of worry and full of peace, joy, and hope. If our lives do not look like this, we need a stronger connection to the Life Giver. Prayer was never meant to be an add-on to our lives. We are created to commune, converse, and delight with the One who is always thinking about us.
Author and minister Tyler Edwards says,
Amen has become the slogan for ‘the prayer is done.’ What if we stop saying Amen and live as if the prayer had not ended? What if our lives became an open and continual conversation with God where we begin to see everything we say and do as a part of that communication? What if we learn to see every moment as God with us?
Vickie Edwards is a freelance writer in Johnston, Iowa.
How are you praying?
• Are you honest with God in your prayers, or do you try to put up a good front and clean up the details (even though he already knows)?
• When you pray for someone, try asking God what he is already doing in that person’s life and how you can be a part of that.
• How much of your prayer life is spent listening to God? Do you test thoughts to be sure they are from his Holy Spirit?
• How has prayer deepened your relationship with God?
• How will you strive to pray without ceasing this week?