Christians should always be interested in learning how to pray more effectively. The reason is simple: If our relationship with God is to be central relationship of our lives it must be nurtured by daily prayer.
There are many aspects of prayer. Here I would like to focus on the fact that prayer is an expression of a personal, all encompassing, and constant relationship with God.
Prayer includes discipline
Prayer includes discipline, but it is not merely a discipline. It involves setting aside a regular time and place, but it is not merely an item in our schedule books. It includes asking for things we need, but it is not merely a shopping list of requests. It involves our speaking to God and God’s speaking to us, but it is not merely an exchange of memoranda.
Prayer is a relationship
More than anything else, prayer is a relationship. When we reduce it to a regimen we deprive ourselves of what all who knew God throughout the scriptures expressed in their prayers: that God is alive, that he knows us and lets himself be known by us, that we can enjoy an intimate personal relationship with him in prayer.
Abba is the Jewish equivalent of ‘Daddy’. When I come home in the evening my daughter Sarah come toddling in to greet me, smiling and gurgling, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.’ To her that is an expression not so much of the precise nature of our relationship (she is not yet old enough to comprehend that) but of intimacy with me. She does not yet understand that I am her father, but she fully understands that I am her ‘daddy’. It is the same between God and us. We cannot fully comprehend the mysteries of the godhead, but we can still know that God is our Abba. We can bask in the intimacy and enjoy him.
Prayer is the talk
The obvious, natural expression of this closeness to God is to talk to him. I would go so far as to encourage you, whenever it is feasible, to talk out loud to him. Certainly we can communicate with God mentally; our thoughts can readily be cast in words and sentences addressed to the Lord. But the intimacy of our relationship is enhanced when we speak to him out loud, when we hear ourselves speak to him.
God can hear our thoughts, so it is not primarily for his sake that we put them into words. It is for our sake. A husband who says to his wife, ‘Honey, I love you’, not only pleases her but also confirms that truth in himself. So it is with prayer. Actually hearing ourselves pray helps draw us into an experience of the intimacy we enjoy with God in a way that purely mental prayer does not.
Prayer needs openness
It is also important for us to understand that we can be completely open with God. It is not as thought there were some segments of our life that were part of our relationship with God and others that were set apart. We can talk with him about anything and everything that is on our hearts.
When God adopts us into his family he adopts us in the totality of who we are. He doesn’t love just parts of us; he loves all of us. There is no part of our lives, however insignificant it might seem to us, with which God is not intimately familiar and about which he does not care deeply. As Paul explained to the men of Athens, in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts. 17:28).
What all should we share in Prayer?
There is no limitation on what we can or should talk to God about in prayer. He wants us to share all of our life with him. What concerns us concerns God, simple because he loves us.
We often persuade ourselves that God’s love does not extend to this or that facet of our lives. Some things seem too small and insignificant; we don’t want to ‘trouble’ God. Some things seem too mundane; we don’t want to ‘waste God’s time’ with them. Some things seem so embarrassing we are too shy to talk about them with God, As if he didn’t already know all about them. Some things are so important to us we are almost reluctant to pray about them for fear God won’t hear us; we are afraid of being ‘let down.’
God helps us see how unnecessary; how foolish, such fears and apprehensions are. There is nothing too small for him, nothing too mundane, nothing we need hold back for fear of losing his love, nothing that could ever fall outside the bounds of his all encompassing love for us.
Pray without ceasing
What does it mean to pray ‘without ceasing?’ This is not and injunction to spend all our time on our knees. Rather it is an invitation to redirect our restless energetic minds into positive streams of communication with God, concerning all that is going on around us as well as within us. Instead of nursing our wounds and self pity, let’s pray for the grace to forgive. Instead of worrying about those for whom we are responsible, let’s ask God to intervene and lift the burden from our shoulders. Instead of thinking creatively about how to bring someone else down, let’s pray about how to build them up.
Just as husband and wife live out their lives against the backdrop of being married, so do we live out the entirety of our lives against the backdrop of a constant relationship with God. He is always there, always loving us, always ready to listen to us. As we recognize his unwavering commitment to us we are able to live in the day to day adventure and challenge of his presence.
– – – written by John Guest