A little more than three years ago I was leading the college group at Church and I made one of the best decisions I’ve ever made: to do a 9-week study on prayer. It revitalized my faith like crazy! I hope it did the same for some of the students, but I’m sure I got more out of it than anyone else; as they say, the best way to learn something is to teach it.
I spent more time in prayer during those nine weeks than any other period of time in my life. And I’m kicking myself right now for letting some of those habits fall to the way side. I know I could use a review of my studies on prayer, so I’m going to revisit it here in my blog. Don’t worry, I won’t go through all nine weeks of the curriculum here in my blog, but I’ll try to touch on a few of the main points. And I’ll start with an overview of what I covered:
The Problem With Prayer.
The biggest problem with prayer is the gap between prayer in theory and prayer in practice. When prayer is just theory it is cold and hard, boring and disconnected. But when actually put into practice prayer is exciting and engaging, full of life! Real prayer is fun! My goal for this whole series was for us all to shed the guilty feeling or “burdensome” weight we often associate with prayer and come to see prayer as a gift we get to open.
Richard Foster wrote a book called Prayer, with the sub-title: “Finding the Heart’s True Home” I love that! Isn’t it good to come home? Not everyone has the best “home” environment. But I think everyone has a desire for feeling “at home.” Everyone can picture what it’s like to really feel that ultimate concept of “being home.” I believe when we pray, if we are truly encountering God the way He designed prayer to work, we will feel like we’re coming home.
Ps. 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God” – The latin word for still in this passage is “vacate” from which we get vacation. So God is inviting us to take a break, a vacation and allow him to be God in our daily lives.
Ps. 37:7 “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”
Isaiah 30:18 “blessed are all those who wait for Him.”
If prayer is the heart’s true home, let’s remember that home is a safe place even we’re feeling confused or scared or angry. Home is a safe place to talk about whatever we need to talk about. I love this clip from the movie The Apostle. I’m not saying it’s an example to follow, but I love the honesty of this clip.
A God’s-Eye View.
One of the greatest benefits of prayer is that it is a way to reset our perspective to an eternal, God’s-Eye View on life and circumstances, and that brings peace. One popular acronym used to remind people how to pray is ACTS. The A is for Adoration – Probably the most beneficial aspect of prayer. Taking time to intentionally adore God (a.k.a. “worship”!). That is what sets the stage for a refreshed perspective.
Can I Really Ask That?
Aside from just resetting our perspective, prayer is a a valid vehicle for bringing our requests to God. Hebrews 4:16 indicates that we have been invited to “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence.” The Bible is filled with examples of people bringing their requests to God. The Lord’s prayer is filled with requests. “Ask and you will receive” is a repeated refrain in scripture (Matt 7:8; Matt 21:22, Mark 11:24, Luke 11:10, John 16:24).
“Prayers are seeds planted
Even if you never get to see them grow
God is the Gardener
Paying close attention
To the fertile soil of prayers”
– Amena Brown
God is paying close attention. He loves us and wants to give us good gifts.
The House Special
In Philip Yancey’s book on prayer he describes a Japanese friend who described the difference between American prayer and Japanese prayer. He said that in America, people pray as if they are ordering at Burger King, “give me a Whopper, well-done, but hold the pickle and lettuce – with extra ketchup, please.” While in Japan people pray like tourists who walk into a foreign restaurant and can’t read the menu. They use hand gestures and refer to a translation phrase book, and ultimately end up ordering whatever is the house specialty. The Eastern approach to prayer involves more trust, as well as suspense and adventure – you never know what you’re going to get because you leave it up to the host. But the American style is more fitting of the childlike straightforwardness of asking for what you want. And after all, Jesus told us to have childlike faith and said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
So here’s your homework: TODAY, put a date and time on your calendar for some time within the next 6 days when you can set aside at least 30 minutes to spend in uninterrupted prayer (just you and God, no distractions). Think of it as a date with God. Then make sure each day leading up to that date you pray for that upcoming prayer time. Something like “God, I’m going to spend 45 minutes with you on Wednesday – please be preparing my heart and my mind for that time, so that I will be ready to hear from you as we talk together. Give me an anticipation and an excitement whenever I think about that upcoming time I’ve set apart for us.”
Leave a comment, and let me know how it goes!