You can tell what subjects people are passionate about by looking at their books. If you come over and look at my shelf, you will see book after book on prayer. Some of my favorites include The Complete Works of EM Bounds on Prayer, How to Pray by Ronnie Floyd, All the Prayers of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer, and A Praying Life by Paul E. Miller. You would think after reading all those books on prayer, I’d be an expert. But unfortunately, it’s just the opposite. I read all those books on prayer because I feel so inadequate. And my feelings of inadequacy have led to periods of prayerlessness in my life. But in the last year or so I’ve had some “ah-ha” moments in my prayer life. Realizations that changed my heart.
First, I pray more. In the words of EM Bounds, “Silence is not prayer.” He goes on to write, “Prayer is asking God for something which we have not, which we desire, and which he has promised to give us in answer to prayer. Prayer is really verbally asking. Words are in prayer. Strong words and true words are found in prayer. Desires in prayer are put in words. The praying one is a pleader.” My passive prayers like “Dear God, please bless so and so…” weren’t going to cut it anymore. If I wanted to feel the power of prayer, the power that changes hearts and lives and circumstances, I would need to realize the power of my words, and use more of them more often.
Second, I pray Scripture. Part of my struggle with prayer was that I felt like it was my will versus God’s will, and I know God’s will always win. So why pray? Well, the quickest and best answer is that we pray because we are commanded to pray. We’re even told to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). So to get over feeling like it was my will vs. God’s will, I put myself on God’s team. I do this using prayer cards. I write names or areas of prayer on index cards and list Scripture verses that apply. For example, I have the names of family members who need salvation, and I pray Romans 10:1 for them, “my heart’s desires and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.” For families I know who are adopting I pray, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised” (Heb. 10:36). For myself I pray, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!” (Psalm 141:3). Praying Scripture for people and situations helps me know I’m praying God’s will for them!
Third, I give myself grace. Apart from the focused prayer time I have with my prayer cards, I’ve tried to just relax and let prayer happen. In A Praying Life by Paul Miller writes, “Jesus did not say, ‘Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.’ No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28, NASB). The criteria for coming to Jesus is weariness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy” (31-32). I come to prayer like a child–not perfect with all the right words in the perfect posture, but trusting, dependent, and desperate.
My prayer life is certainly an area of potential growth, but God has taught me a lot in the last year. What has God taught you about prayer recently? What works for you in the spiritual discipline of prayer?