The Gift of Prayer
Prayer. We talk about it often, but I feel it's one of those areas that we will continue to discover the magnitude of. I know for myself it's this way--I understand, but I don't fully understand it's magnificence, but then another wave of revelation comes, and it blows my mind once again. And it's this week I've realized once again, prayer is a phenomenal, huge gift. We are literally communing with the God of the universe who chooses to call us child and friend. Wow. Prayer is something God designed. It was His idea for us to be in that close of a relationship with Him, that we would be given direct access to His heart.
Over the past few weeks, I've seen God answering prayers in the most beautiful of ways. He has met my heart with some deep questions that I have been wrestling with and asking clarity for. The fact alone that we can voice the deepest parts of our heart in the complete safety of His presence is overwhelming. As I've pressed in, dialed down, and tuned in, it's once again that I am met with the reality that it is a privilege to pray. It's our direct communication line with God. It's our connection to the Source. Without prayer, we are missing out on a HUGE part of our relationship with God. And prayer is more than us asking. It's a dialogue, a conversation with God.
As I reflect on these past weeks, there are some incredible gifts of prayer that strike my heart. There is way more packed into this simple act than perhaps we readily realize:
1. We can ask boldly and confidently.
God Himself encourages us to boldly and confidently approach Him and make our requests known. Our prayers are not a burden to God. In fact, God encourages us to be persistent in prayer, championing the one who asks and knocks again and again. (Luke 18:1) God desires for us to voice our hearts to Him, and He longs to answer.
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16, NASB)
2. God longs to affirm us.
If there's one thing I've seen these past weeks, it's that God desires to affirm us. Our God is a God of clarity and vision, and He especially desires for us to know who we are in Him. Prayer is the place where we are affirmed as a child of God, and personally, this is where God encourages me most in how He sees me and who He has created me to be. The last few weeks, I had been asking God about His vision and calling on my life, finding myself in a place of questioning what I've heard. Not only did He speak to my heart, but He has extravagantly confirmed it through prayer ministry and other's words.
But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! (Isaiah 43:2, NASB)
3. Prayer is an access point to our heart.
God's presence is a safe place. We are safe to unravel our hearts before Him. God designed our relationship with Him to be full of trust and vulnerability. If we can truly rest and step into this, we will feel the safety and freedom to expose the deepest parts of our heart to Him--the questions, the wrestles, and the not so lovely parts. We may even discover things we didn't know were there.
These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God. With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence. (Psalm 42:4-5, NASB)
Prayer is amazing. It's not as complicated as we sometimes make it. I find the most beautiful and engaging conversations with God involve me simply pouring forth words as if I was speaking to a friend. God designed prayer to be more than just a one way conversation, too. He desires to speak to us. For some while in my relationship with God, I talked to Him and knew He heard my prayers, but I wasn't aware to dial down and listen for His voice in response, because, quite frankly, I didn't know if I knew I could discern the voice of God. But, as His children, this is our inheritance, that we can hear His voice:
"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me" (John 10:27, NASB)
We were made to know His voice. God has a multitude of ways He speaks to us, and I believe He oftentimes uses a variety of ways in order to keep us close and in intimacy with Him. We're always going to be discovering more about Him. We need not fear getting it wrong. God wants us to hear His voice more than we know. I find that when I do mishear, God is gracious to redirect me back to what He originally intended. I find that part of growing is being willing to get it wrong. As we grow in discerning His voice, it takes grace, humility, and teachability. His voice will always point back to alignment with His nature and His Word. Anything contrary we can dismiss. I like to take authority over the enemy's voice and my own flesh, and then invite Him to speak, because as we all know, those two other "voices" seek to be at play. But again, we don't have to fear. As Christ followers, His Spirit is in us and with us, teaching us, guiding us!
The book of James exhorts us to ask God with faith, expecting Him to answer. We are exhorted not to doubt, but to have confidence in the Lord's reply. This is the type of prayer life I desire to have--one that is filled with boldness and confidence. As God reveals His faithfulness, I find that my heart grows stronger and my faith is built. This is the power of testimony, that what God has done before, He can do again. David encouraged his soul,
"O my God, my soul is in despair within me; Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar." (Psalm 42:6, NASB)
He remembered, and it stirred his faith. I find that what I've seen God do, I have greater faith for. And the new areas that come, well, I get the opportunity to stretch my faith! This is what I am disciplining my mind to believe, as several times these past months, God has whispered, "because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." (James 1:3, NASB) God is helping me. May we see new territory of prayer in our lives as such--the opportunity for faith and perseverance to grow!
Prayer is one of those things you can just keep diving into. Simple, yet so profound. And this week, I really have been struck again by the beauty of communing with God in prayer. Prayer is communion. It doesn't have to be a once-a-day stop. In fact, I believe He's designed it to be a constant conversation throughout the day, just as natural has having coffee with a friend. In fact, some of my greatest conversations with God have been in coffee shops!
"...pray without ceasing;" (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NASB)
I encourage you, God really wants to meet us in the place of prayer. If you ever find yourself struggling to cultivate prayer in your daily life, ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with a desire and spirit to pray. He will do it! I myself do this. Sometimes, it just feels easier to pray at certain times than others. I remember when I heard in a sermon, "it takes God to love God." Suddenly, I realized, we are so dependent upon God that we need His Spirit to fill us to do the things we long to do. God first loved us. It's Him that places the love inside! In and of ourselves, we can produce nothing. But, we are called to cultivate what He produces. Never be afraid to ask for His help.
I pray you encounter the wild faithfulness of the Father as you commune with Him in prayer. May you hear His voice and remember in all things, His timing is perfect.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (Matthew 7:7, NIV)