If prayer is only ritual or recitation, my best ideas rolled into a request, or depends on the right words to get the right result; I am doomed before a single word makes it to my mouth.
When prayer is my lifeline to God’s heart
and oxygen for my soul; I can’t live without it.
I don’t know everything about prayer, but what I know has changed how I view prayer. Here are four lessons that come from bedrock. You can pray without them, but praying with them enhances how you expect to hear from God and protects you from self-centered prayers to seek your will to be done, instead of God’s.
1. Prayer is God's invitation to me before it is my invitation to God.
Contrary to what most think, prayer doesn’t begin with my idea. I don’t just say to myself, “I should pray about this” and then begin a prayer that is self-generated. No. God ALWAYS starts the conversation. The idea to pray is God’s nudge, His whisper, His reminder of His always-with-me presence. I respond to His invitation. I RSVP. I show up ready to listen more than talk.
2. Prayer starts in the heart not in the words.
Shortchange the heart here and you have the “clanging cymbals” from 1 Corinthians 13. All noise and no substance. Words don’t get God’s attention; the heart does. Sometimes we use words to get around the truths in our hearts. But let the heart speak what is there whether it is fear, discouragement, or need. That’s where God does His best work. Ask “What do I do about ______“ or “How can I ______“ prayers and let God fill in the blanks. That’s when answers always come!
3. True prayer reorients your heart to God’s heart.
I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. I may go to God complaining
about something. I may use more words than necessary to describe and analyze the situation for Him, as if He doesn’t already know! Only when I find that all-important silence before God, do I sense that He has something to say. He never takes His magnifying glass to show me another’s flaws. Instead, he points His magnifying glass to help me see my heart and gently shows me what does not belong. It could be fear or insecurity or just plain wrong analysis. As I confess He’s right and let Him remove what doesn’t belong, a sweet peace settles that never comes from my words. That’s what an answer to prayer looks like for me!
4. True prayer changes me before it changes anything or anyone.
If prayer is the most intimate connection we have with God, why would He waste it to give me some kind of ESP about other people? Instead, He uses this connection to grow me, shape me. And it is that shaping, that conforming to God’s heart; that has world changing significance.
Even as I write these words, I know my shortcomings and mourn them for I realize how painfully inept I am. Thankfully, God understands and does not give up on me. He keeps knocking, keeps inviting me back to His heart, keeps sharing what will make the difference that nothing I have tried has made.
Prayer works when it is the work of God shaping my heart. That’s when I listen best, hear the most, and understand in deeper ways how God’s unfailing love is always my best answer to any prayer.
I pray the same becomes true for you.