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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

When You Pray . . .

When the day was long, the crowds were overwhelming, the people demands unrelenting, Jesus refreshed himself by taking time to pray. He separated himself from his friends, even made himself hard to find sometimes because he needed uninterrupted time to pray. While no one was around to record those prayers, we do have his instruction about prayer. He distilled his message into principles we can review and evaluate our prayer life by. Here are four questions his teaching encourages me to ask:

1. Am I honest?

Don't be like the hypocrites. Matthew 6:5

I don’t think Jesus was talking about being honest about what we want as much as he wanted people to be honest about why they want it. He invited deep honesty, the kind that reveals motives, wounds, and fears.

Most of us don’t have to worry about “showy” prayers. That kind of hypocrisy is not our problem. But are we completely honest with God about why we feel desperate or afraid or frustrated? What makes us hold on to what we think is best in a situation when we are talking to the God who already knows everything?

I fought this honesty when I prayed desperately for something to change in our daughter’s physical situation over the years. It took me a long time to admit to God that I was afraid I couldn’t be the mother I wanted to be if something didn’t change. When I started admitting my underlying fears and insecurities, that’s when God reminded me He was capable to direct me and empower me in every changing situation. Then, my prayers led me to new steps of faith in the small things that always led

to faith in the bigger things.

Without honesty, we are simply talking to ourselves, and God knows it.

2. Do I know how to be alone with God?

When you pray, go away by yourself. Mat. 6:8

When I learned that God said more to me after I was honest with Him, I prayed more, not less. Prayer is about developing intimacy with God. The relationship we forge with God in private influences who we are in public.

Take a walk with God. Take a break with God. Close a door. Use a do-not-disturb sign if necessary. Turn a chair toward a window and away from seeing unfinished tasks. Spend the first 5 minutes in the car without music. Be completely alone with God and just listen. This is how intimacy with God begins.

3. Do my prayers reflect Jesus’ model of prayer?

Our Father in Heaven . . . Matthew 6:9

The model of prayer Jesus shared covers the way we acknowledge Who God is and what He wants for us in this world. It covers our daily needs and the issues that could sabotage everything.

Anytime I am asked to join a group to say the Lord’s prayer, I pray it. The words are too convicting to make it a memory activity. I let each phrase become a direction. Sometimes a phrase arrests my attention because it uncovers something I need to address.

Make a card set with one phrase of the Lord’s prayer per card. Pray one card per day or week. Let the repetition remind you that everything we pray and ask for should uphold one of the prayer priorities from the Lord’s prayer.

4. Do I know how prayer overcomes worry?

Do not worry about your life. Matthew 6:6:25

Prayer connects us to God who knows everything, has unlimited resources to help us, has promised to lead us to abundant life, and has never failed to keep His word. Prayer helps us admit that we have less control than we want in a difficult situation, but that God has all the control we need. Prayer—heart-to-heart connected prayer- is how we renew our trust and find the perseverance to wait for His answer in His time. Worry adds nothing helpful. Worry robs us of living in God’s peace and help. God invites us to let Him carry our worries. Why don’t we accept His invitation?

Keep asking these questions, but let Jesus answer them for you. Jesus wants us to learn the prayer life he enjoyed with his Father. It was refreshing, revealing, and sustaining. Jesus always came away from prayer with an unswerving determination to do His Father's will. The main goal of prayer is to prepare us to do God's will. That is the only end of all prayer.

We are not in a fist fight with God to get our way. Prayer is the intimate connection that settles us again with God’s unfailing love toward us. One-way talking to God doesn’t deliver what we need. The more intimacy we find with God, the more time we give Him to do the talking. Then, we discover that His will IS our first and best answer to any prayer.

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