A Facebook friend of mine, a guy I went to college with who is a preacher, asked a question online—“What do you love about prayer? How do you struggle with prayer?”
Almost everyone answered the second question with something having to do with staying focused. I understand, because I've been there.
I don’t think I answered his questions very well, but this is how I commented—
“I once made long lists of prayer requests but now I listen for the Holy Spirit to bring to mind those He has for me to pray about---which of course is a great mystery but also a great comfort. He has taken over my prayer life and has transformed it. The hardest thing for me to get my head around is how he loves us all the same---his everywhere presence. It's just too wonderful for me.”I struggle sometimes with the personal nature of God and the fact that he is personal with everyone. How can he keep all our chattering straight? And what about those heart cries, those groanings from the depths that have no words but are prayers all the same? It's a lot to wrap the brain around.
I believe God has challenged me to a lifestyle of prayer that is dependent on him. I wasn’t good at praying through lists. I rattled them off and then I forgot many of them. Now, when the Holy Spirit brings someone to mind, especially someone who has a need or is hurting, I take it as an opportunity to pray. I believe each prompting is “what is mine to do.” Those who come to mind are my prayer assignments. It amazes me how God has orchestrated the things I pray about all through my day. Sometimes, I pray for my people, those very close to me; sometimes, I hardly know them.
Does prayer change the mind of God? I don’t think so, though there are stories in the Bible that show that God responded to requests to change circumstances. I do think He, in his wisdom, can change the course of things as He looks at his greater purposes to bring about his kingdom upon the earth. He knows there is more than one trail up the mountain.
The example that comes to mind was when God was going to step back from leading Israel to the Promised Land. He was concerned that He might kill them. (Exodus 33 is one of the greatest chapters in the Bible in my opinion.) God was being merciful and gracious when He told Moses he would send an angel with them instead. Moses would have none of it. He would rather risk death for all than to go forward without God.
God promised He would go with them and give them rest. He wasn’t going to snap his fingers or twitch his nose and put them in the land. They would move toward their destiny and He would be there with them as they stumbled along toward the promise.
I’m beginning to understand prayer as a way of life, a way of communion with God who loves me and who loves others through me. As I express the longings of my heart to God and ask Him to show mercy, give healing and hope, or to give direction to those he brings to my conscience mind, I'm amazed at his desire for me to be part of this cosmic mystery to influence the unseen world with the power of prayer. I am humbled at the restraint God has toward me as often I stumble along. On days when I am discouraged and want to give up, He touches my heart with longing and I move forward as He leads me in his grace.
There’s no doubt that prayer is a conversation. The Lord knows we need this connection in a world that rages against him and is intent on distracting us. Knowing God cares about the things we care about is a great comfort. Nothing is happening apart from his sovereignty. Instead of worrying about things too big for me, I turn my concerns back to God and release them.
This prayer approach has transformed my prayer life. As I’ve heard the promptings of the Holy Spirit, as I have listened, my confidence has been boosted, my faith has been strengthened and my fear has been squelched. I remember that God is in control. I trust him for my needs and the needs of others. I remember his plans are good. I fall in love with people he loves as He allows me to carry their burdens.
Today, I am humbled and grateful that God has entrusted me with this little bit of understanding concerning prayer. It is transforming my relationship with him and helping me to understand his love for me and others. Instead of hating the longing that often grips my soul, I accept those heart pangs as “cords of kindness” that tie me to the heart of God.
I’ll still make lists when prayer request time comes around, but I'll not likely look back on them. Writing the request down keeps me engaged at the moment and gives me the opportunity to acknowledge God’s activity in the presence of others. Then and there, I submit to God to give me “what is mine.”
And when someone asks me directly to pray for them, you might be asking? That request "is mine to do." It's a no-brainer.
If you have a prayer request, I want to know about it. Would you share with me in a comment or message me in private on Facebook or Instagram?
Be encouraged. God cares about the things concerning you.