I pray to talk to my Father, to meet Him, to stay with Him. I pray to let God know me and for me to know Him, as He is, the real God, the God who stays the same over the years, yet cannot be contained nor tamed. I pray to allow God to change my heart.
It is very humbling and motivating to know that through my prayer, reality can be shaped, that things can happen and that I can work together with God. There was a time when I used to think that events just happened and they would have happened anyway, or when I thought that prayer was a good coping mechanism used by Christians. But looking back to answered prayers (especially for situations that seemed impossible) is always disarming.
I find great encouragement in Daniel where an angel appears to him saying: “Your words were heard and I have come in response to them” (10:12). He wouldn’t have come if not for Daniel’s prayer. The life of Lot wouldn’t have been saved if not for Abraham’s plea (Genesis 18-19). The faith of Peter wouldn’t have stayed if not for Jesus’ prayer (Luke 22:31). And my life wouldn’t have been saved if God’s Spirit had not led me to ask for forgiveness and grace.
How I pray
I know I can pray about things that might seem bold as well as confessing struggles that might seem childish. I know I can approach God with my heart just as it is. Because no matter what I ask or confess, God will not be more upset with me than a dad with His child who is coming to talk to him.
My prayers tend to be very conversational and intimate - which made group prayer feel difficult and even cold. In the past few years, Bible study groups proved very helpful for me in this respect. Being able to follow-up and actually see results for the people I was praying with was (and still is) a great encouragement. But there are also times when I feel I can’t find the words to pray. It was always such a comfort to know there’s someone who can lead me into prayer and is there to walk with me.
- Prayer shouldn't make us feel guilty
Maybe prayer is even more important precisely in those times when I don’t feel like praying or when I feel I cannot pray because of some guilt or shame that is burdening me.
In either case, this is not something I need or can sort out myself before coming to God. I can’t justify myself. There are times when I need to remind myself that righteousness is not something I can work out in order to be received by my Lord. Rather, it is something that’s granted to me as I come and am received by Him.
So instead, I come with my honest heart and actually confess: "Lord, I don't feel like praying. I feel dry and cold. Would you help me see you as you are and fall in love with you again? Would you forgive me? Would you take away my burden?”
- I'm still learning how to pray
When we come to prayer, we bring a lot with us. Philip Yancey in his book, “ Prayer”, says that "prayer can have moments of excitement or times of apathy, an absent spirit, times of focus, of sparking joy or irritation. In other words, it has all these dimensions like any other important relationship."
I am still learning how to navigate these times and allow God to mature me through them, to set the right focus and to challenge me.
Whenever I’m thinking of this, I find the words of the disciples so humbling and liberating, when after walking with Jesus and witnessing His ministry, they asked Jesus:
"Lord, teach us how to pray!".
For when it comes to prayer, we are all beginners.