By Kelly Carr
If you haven’t noticed, tons of books have been written about prayer. Formulas have been offered. Metaphors have been devised. God’s responses have been questioned. Truly it remains a challenge for us, finite human beings, to comprehend and enact communication with an infinite, all-powerful, spiritual being.
Prayer is simple. It’s also complex. It’s intimidating and exhausting, yet powerful. When we pray and see change occur, we recognize that our Creator is truly listening. He might even be trying to communicate in return—if we’re paying attention.
I Thought Prayer Was a Formula
When I was a younger Christian, I was concerned about doing prayer the right way. I had heard ministers offer tips on everything from prayer journals to early morning rituals to the ACTS acronym. I didn’t want to do it wrong, so I tried these. But my prayer time was often spent in self-critique and guilt. I agree that these methods are helpful. Yet I began thinking of them as checklists instead of conversation starters.
A close friend told me about conversational prayer carried on with God throughout the day. A line from Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Let Us Pray” came to mind: “Like breathing out and breathing in, let us pray.” What a lovely visual.
I tried it. When I drove to work, I told God my thoughts and asked him to open my eyes to what he was doing around me. When someone had a need, instead of saying I’d pray but then forget to, I silently asked God to give strength to the situation immediately after I heard it.
My relationship with God grew in new ways when I recognized that he was already a part of my daily journey. There was no need to wait for a specific time set aside for prayer—his Spirit was accessible and ready to converse 24/7.
I Stopped to Listen
Of course talking is only half the conversation.
It was 2005. I’d never prayed and then followed God into the complete unknown. Yet here we were. There were absolutely no existing plans for the path before my family. Just an urging. We tried following what we thought we sensed from God’s Spirit.
My husband and I prayed and then took a step. Prayed and then took another step. Each time there was still ground beneath our feet and a bit of light ahead. Eventually we found ourselves moving to a new location and planting a church with a small band of Christian brothers and sisters. All the while, we were preparing to welcome our first baby into the world.
It was the most growing time of faith I’ve ever experienced. I’ve never felt that vulnerable. I’ve never left my life in God’s hands with no contingency plan.
We made sure to write down our prayers and the answers God gave so we could remember them in the years to come. We saw God daily sustain us. We watched him work through people. I’m glad we recorded it. On days when I wonder why and when and what he’s doing, I can be assured that he has spoken and he does act and he is in control.
Looking back, I see that my prayers found greater purpose when my foremost desire was a deeper relationship with him. I’m quite certain that’s why God started a
conversation with humans in the first place.