It’s a new year and a new semester for bible studies at my church. Sitting with the ladies in our study last week, I listened to each person share their thoughts and struggles with prayer. Nodding my head at each comment, I realized that we all were on the same journey. Prayer is a mysterious thing, one we often wonder if we’ll ever figure out.
And then one friend asked “What do you think the purpose of prayer is?”
This year my heart’s one word focus is on seeking Christ. He promises that if I seek him with all my heart, I will find him. So it’s no coincidence that I chose a book on prayer to go through with the ladies at my church this semester. Prayer is a key component to my seeking him and I hope to explore deeper into the heart of prayer this year in an effort to join in the divine conversation with my Heavenly Father.
For much of my life, I’ve used prayer like a heavenly candy machine. I told God everything I wanted and then waited for it all to fall into my waiting hands. When I didn’t get what I asked for, I despaired and wondered where I went wrong.
I’ve also treated prayer like a duty, a chore to be completed every day. I had my method and my checklist and I felt good when I prayed correctly and guilty when I didn’t.
And then there were the times when I barely gave prayer a thought, unless I was facing a trial or challenge of some kind. Then I prayed and expected Him to be right there, anxiously waiting to answer my request, like my own personal butler, always at my service.
But then things changed in my relationship with God and my prayers started to change as a result. I began to see prayer as an opportunity to spend time with a person, my best friend. I found it not as a means to an end, but the end itself, a way into the very presence of my Abba. I found prayer to be a still place to sit in his presence and feel the warmth of his grace.
Most importantly, I’ve come to see prayer as the door that leads to the Source of all I ever wanted–not to my supplier of all I want, because all I ever wanted was the Source himself. It is God my soul needs most, not what he can give me.
This kind of prayer is relational. It’s about getting to know my Abba. It’s about communion and connection with my Savior. It’s about me being me and God meeting me right where I am. It’s about being still, listening more than talking, and seeking more than asking. It’s about removing all the unimportant things in my heart that get in the way of communion with him. It’s about wanting to be with him more than wanting anything he can give me.
Seeking God in prayer then becomes a daily death of myself and a humble posture of my heart. It requires a laying down of my daily burdens and a picking up of the weightless yoke of Christ. Praying this way means I sacrifice my will and expectations, submitting to the work of the Surgeon’s hands upon my heart.
And so I talk to Him all day. I share the thoughts and feelings on my heart, telling him where I am at that moment in my relationship with him. I come to him as I am, messes and all. I evaluate and purge what’s going on in my heart that keeps me from him. I reflect on what the gospel means to me and how I need it more today than I needed it the day before. I voice my worries, concerns, fears, hopes and dreams. I focus on him as the first thing and then on the second things, like my wants and needs second. And I dwell on the amazing grace and mercy of the One who made it possible for me to enter into the holy of holy’s.
Because prayer goes hand in hand with my growth in holiness, it is an ongoing journey of transformation, of change, of ups and downs, of brokenness and adulation, of peeling back layers and going deeper. My prayers change as I change. Whatever is happening in my heart comes out in prayer, the good, bad, and ugly. But no matter how messy my life gets this year, I know that the gospel cleanses not only myself, but each and every imperfect prayer I pray.
As I seek God this year, I face prayer with great expectation. I look forward to learning more and growing more in my prayer life. I anticipate new discoveries, new depths to plumb, and new riches of grace to explore in my prayers with God. And I know I will find him, when I seek him with all my heart.
How about you? What lessons do you hope to learn and grow in this year?
Giving thanks in community for new journeys (#2043-2059):
my ladies bible study starting up again
studying prayer using this book: A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World
expectations for a deeper, fuller prayer life
having such beautiful friends to walk with in the journey
coupon for a free coffee
watching my kids battle their sin and overcome it
writing for hours at Panera
my husband finally getting a new (used) car
seeing patience in my oldest
learning a new game in homeschool for our study of Africa–mancala
watching old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys dvds with my kids
the boys testing for their yellow belts in Tae Kwon Do
doors that open when I least expect it
being humbled by my own words
hosting new church visitors for dinner