I love knowing that the God of the Bible is personal; that He hears me every time I speak and delights for me to come to Him again and again. I can pray big and I can pray bold because He is the God who is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” (Ephesians 3:20)
As I grew up, praying to and thanking my heavenly Father was something both taught and modeled as active and relational. It was part of life, but it wasn’t “just a tradition.”
As the years went by and I gave my life to Christ and began learning to live in a personal relationship with Him, as all must choose one way or the other (…it is not a family “gene” to be granted – it is a one-on-one, chosen response to God’s gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus!*), I was encouraged by others, who discipled me and led into a deeper walk with my Savior, to have honest conversations throughout the day as well as intentional time alone with Him; to come to Him with praise, thanks, and repentance!
Prayer is not a formula; it is coming as we are into the very presence of the living God! And we can do that because of Jesus!
I love to drive down the road, listening to great music, singing out loud! It’s a delight to my Savior to hear me sing songs that praise Him and/or set my eyes on Him, regardless of whether or not it is simply a joyful “noise” to others. It is, in essence, a musical prayer of praise!
I love to be busy around the house, ride my bike or walk, get in the car and head to work or anywhere else and just talk to my Savior, sometimes through laughter and sometimes through tears. And I know He hears. I know He rejoices with me when my joy is in Him and in what pleases Him. I know He delights when, in humility, I come to Him in repentance and say, “Forgive me. Change me.” I know He weeps with me when my heart is hurting.
I love to join with other believers laying out our joys and sorrows before the throne of grace and with my husband bringing our children and those we love before this One who knows before we speak yet wants to hear from our lips.
And I love to leave the distractions and find my quiet place alone to pour out my heart to my Father while opening His Word to hear His voice as well!
God is personal; He is ABBA, Daddy! And He knows me, my heart, and my thoughts better than I know myself.
So today, sometimes I pour out praise and sometimes pain. But, if I’m honest, sometimes I simply complain. I want answers and, too often, I want them in my timing and the way I think best; and, if not, I want to know why. It’s in those complaining moments, I wonder if I am too casual with God Most High! Yes, he wants to hear my hurts – but complaining can lean towards spewing it all out with little or no desire to hear His response in return. Yes, He is my tender Savior, but also my Mighty King!
The Lord doesn’t mind my “whys,” but He wants me to learn to submit them to Him when He doesn’t give an answer…or at least not the answer I want. But it isn’t the attitude of a dad who says, “Because I said so!” and walks away disgruntled or irritated by the question.
No, it’s very much – “I AM God and I said so!” But with the attitude of “I hear you, but I know what you don’t know. I see what you don’t see. I want more for you than you want for yourself – because I know what that looks like so much better than you. Yes, it is for Me, God Almighty, to get the glory because I am worthy of honor and praise! (That’s not arrogant – it’s fact!) But I answer according to My will because I love you that much. I love you enough to sometimes say ‘Yes,’ sometimes ‘No,’ and, at other times, ‘Better’ – you just may not recognize the difference…yet!” (To be clear, I know those words are not “quotes” of God from the Bible; rather, a conversation I imagine He might have with me – based on His Word).
As with any relationship, we know and love one another, and increasingly so, as we talk to each other, speak, and listen. If all we do is talk, then walk away or tune out as the other is sharing their heart, not really interested in their thoughts or assuming we know what they will say, do we really know someone? Can we truly love them well? Is it any different with God?
Often, I’m brought up short as I consider the words of a favorite song, “…I’ve tried to hear from Heaven. But I talked the whole time…” (“What Do I Know of Holy?” – Addison Road) when God just wants me to simply “Be still and know that I AM God…” (Psalm 46:10). And so, as I am reminded of this truth, I’m still learning to pray and listen well…seeking to be still, asking Him to renew my heart and give me a steadfast spirit and open eyes and ears.
More and more, I recognize I DON’T “get it” a lot. But I don’t have to always understand what God is doing. He is God; I am not. And that is good.
As I have been praying lately for family members, close friends, and some situations for which I have no answers and with outcomes I can’t control, I recognize how my expectations are too small in light of the power of the God of the universe! I see how I unintentionally attempt to limit God when I think my prayers are just the right answer. I miss the fact that, in His timing and ways, He is doing 10,000 things I can’t even begin to see!
I have watched Him turn certain situations around 180 degrees from how I thought they needed to be “accomplished” for a certain outcome and He provided that outcome or better…without doing things my way. How thankful I am when He adjusts my heart to His will, tunes my heart to see His answer in that moment, and doesn’t always give me what I ask for. I have seen Him soften and transform hearts I had doubted would ever be changed! But God! Oh, to see with His eyes always.
We can come as a child, believing yet, at times, asking Him to help our belief; waiting in expectation!
From the outset, we are told to come into His presence with praise (Psalm 100:4) and thanks (Philippians 4:6)! Don’t our hearts begin to hear His heart as we first choose to put our eyes and our focus on the goodness of our Savior before we lay out our requests, our pleas, our hurt? We can walk on the churning waters and call out for His help with eyes fixed, not on the circumstances around and beneath us, but straight ahead at Jesus, as Peter did and was able to walk on water!
We are told to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16) with our confidence fully placed on the One to whom we pray. It is not our words that change things; rather, it is the actions of the only One who hears! There are no “perfect words” or “professional pray-ers;” none so eloquent as to peak the interest of the Almighty. He hears the hearts of those who come to Him in humility and recognition that HE alone is able! He hears those who say, “I believe; help my unbelief.” He hears through our tears and our joy!
I have found myself more and more asking the Holy Spirit to “intercede (before God’s throne) for us with groanings that are too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26) So often I don’t know the words to say as I pray, but He has them and they are perfectly tuned to the heart of God.
And, I take pleasure in being able to pray, “Jesus, take what I’m praying and adjust my words and my heart to be in unity with the heart of the Father” – asking Jesus to intercede for me and for those I love as well because He is at the right hand of God doing so for us! (Romans 8:34)
Equally, God has called us to pray for our enemies; for those who have hurt us or those we love deeply and for those who have sinned against us, spoken falsely about us, or attempted to harm us. It is by His grace we can do so and it is His mercy that changes us and enables us to long for their heart change (and, as needed, our own).
But I am also humbly being reminded to pray, “Not my will but Yours, God” – all the while asking Him to adjust my heart to pray that faithfully and honestly. Jesus wrestled with the Father’s will in the garden so much so that he sweat drops of blood and, yet, He submitted and went to the cross for us. I pray God will give me a submissive heart to pray and live those words well.
Praying the very words of God back to Him, even inserting names and places, is powerful and effective but also extremely personal. We are entering the throne room of God, bringing His Word to bear on our lives and the lives of those for whom we pray. We know that His Word is living and active and doesn’t return void. We know His Word is His will, so we know we can pray humbly yet boldly and intimately, such as:
“Lord God, I ask you to “fill (insert “me” or another) with the knowledge of (Your) will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that (he/she) may live a life worthy of the Lord and please (You) in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of (You),God, being strengthened with all power according to (Your) glorious might so that (he/she) may have great endurance and patience…” (Colossians 1:9-11)
I’m learning (again) that God wants me to have open hands, not hands that seek to fix anything (though there are times He wants us to be His hands and feet). Rather, He calls me to, before all things, lay people and situations at His feet, step back, and remind myself as I tell Him, “Yes, Lord, they are Yours; yes, Lord this is Your situation to do as You will. It may be easy or it may be hard, but it will be from Your hand!”
We can honestly pour out our desires and our questions then leave them in the strong Hands that are good, even when it doesn’t “look” or “feel” good! We can fully trust the One Who Himself is Faithful and True.
I will still crank up the music and sing out loud as I drive down the street because it resets me heart! It takes my mind off me and whatever weighs on my heart and exalts Him!
I will still choose to give thanks to the Lord in all circumstances when I “feel” like it and when I don’t! (I Thessalonians 5:18)
I will still pour out my tears before God, as David did in the Psalms. “My tears have been my food day and night…” (Psalm 42:3) and as Jesus encouraged us to “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
I will still pray without ceasing for broken bodies, wounded hearts, devastated relationships, self-pleasing lives and choices (recognized or not), and unredeemed souls. I will wrestle before the throne of God on their behalf out of great love and through tears, as Paul did for and wrote to believers in 2 Corinthians 2:4, “out of great distress and anguish of heart…(out of) the depth of my love for (them).”
But, in the end, I will cease my striving, open my hands, and with thanksgiving in advance of or in spite of the answer, say, “I will trust You, Father! Speak for me, Jesus! Holy Spirit, intercede with groanings and longings I can’t express…pray as I don’t know how to pray.”
He will hear. He will do just that.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard (my) heart and mind in Christ Jesus!” (Philippians 4:7)
*You can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You can learn more about that relationship and chat live with someone at https://needhim.org/knowing-jesus/ or feel free to ask questions here. I would love to have a conversation giving you reason for the hope I have in Christ!
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God…” Romans 8:23 But God has provided a way: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9