“The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.”
(Psalm 6:9, ESV).
When I was a baby Christian in my early 20s, I decided I wanted to be a prayer warrior … someone who really knew God and saw lots of results from their prayers. It was a lofty and very naïve goal.
Fifty years later I feel like I’m finally learning to pray! In these intervening years I’ve wanted to quit talking to God like a child who quits playing with her little friends and runs home to mom crying, “They won’t play by the rules!” Guess what? God doesn’t either. Like this little girl after a good pout, I always go back to God and talk to Him again.
Here are two of many lessons I’ve learned about why prayer is so hard.
- I expect God to think like I do. It makes sense to me, for example, that God would want my dad to come to Him sooner rather than later. If I follow His rules in prayer then the boxes will be checked and voila my prayer should be answered. I prayed for my dad for years. Decades actually. Finally, I realized my father did know God but his generation never talked about their faith like ours did. I was expecting God to change my dad to fit my vision of who he should be.
- I have a lot more pride than I ever imagined. I’ve always worked at being nice, polite, and kind, so I always assumed pride was not my big sin. In the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus made it clear the father loved the older brother as much as the wayward son, but the older brother’s pride in being good kept him outside the door. My pride keeps me at a distance from God more often than I realize.
All the unanswered prayers, the disappointments in God, the bewilderment at the way He works have birthed and grown in me a love and awe for God I would have never known otherwise. I have seen He is God and I am not.
So why should I make prayer a priority?
Because I am His loved daughter. Though I have often been discouraged in prayer, I have never walked away for good. I belong to God. I’ve always returned and said, Teach me, Lord. Help me understand and learn and grow. Not my will but “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10, ESV).
I am His. I am loved. He is my perfect Father. Just as I delighted to hear my children tell me their stories … most of the time … so God loves to hear from me. He loves to hear me say to Him, “I will follow You and trust you,” just as I loved hearing my children choose to trust me, to believe I had their best interests at heart.
If you belong to God He wants to hear from you too. Here are three things I’ve learned about prayer that might help and encourage you.
- Prayer is not a formula but a relationship. God wants to hear from me, but He also wants to talk to me … if I will take the time to listen. It’s not a formal procedure but an ongoing conversation … all-day … back and forth.
- Prayer needs both honesty and truth. I tell God how I feel. I write in my journal words I wouldn’t want anyone else to read. And sometimes I catch myself as I’m talking to God and I say, “That’s not the truth about my husband Lord, it’s just how I feel right now.”
- Prayer needs surrender. In any prayer, or at the end of every day’s conversation I express to God some form of surrender, words that echo Jesus’ instruction in the Lord’s prayer, “Your will be done.”
This is the longing of God’s heart toward us, that we learn to trust Him. And it is the longing of our hearts to trust Him fully.
Rather than giving up in prayer, keep going back to God asking Him to help you in every circumstance of every day.
May you see Him as He is and may your heart be ever His!
In His Word
“ … casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” I Peter 5:7 (ESV)
In Your Life
What are you feeling now, in this moment, that you can tell Him, ask Him to carry for you, heal or correct for you?
For any woman who wants help talking to God honestly, transparently, Barbara’s book, My Heart Ever His, offers 40 prayers to guide you into a conversational relationship with the God who made you!