My Journey Along the Narrow Way

Prayer…

I’m going to let you in on my big, bad, dark secret…

I’m a bad pray-er.  I don’t want to be a bad pray-er…I really, really want to be a prayer warrior.  It’s just that I’m not good at it and I didn’t really know what to do to get better.

I have tried to various things to become better at praying.  But pretty much what ends up happening is I learn a “system” or way to pray and promptly become legalistic about it. You see, I’m a list maker and checker offer.  Once I have a system, it all because just something to check off the list.

I could never figure out what the problem was.  It’s not just about lack of time or commitment but more about motivation and what it should look like.  But no matter what I tried it just didn’t feel right.

Was God really even listening?  Why would He want to hear what I had to say anyway?  Also, I was pretty sure that every time I repented He was thinking, “Here she comes again, confessing the same thing.  Why can’t she learn and get this right?”.  Of course, intellectually I knew that God wasn’t thinking that…but emotionally, well that was a whole different story.

I have been thinking about prayer a lot lately and really wanted to grow in this area of my walk.  And, as He so often does, God seemed to be telling me a lot about prayer lately as well.  (I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I tend to have periods of “themes” in my life.  What I mean is when God really seems to be trying to get a point across to me everything will relate to the one thing, from the sermons i hear, to the books I read, to the music I hear. It’s like I can’t get away from it until I “get it”.)

Well, apparently God has been teaching me much about prayer in the last several weeks.  Usually I am not quite so deep in my blog posts but I had to share what God has taught me in the hopes that if there are others struggling in this area that it might help you as well.

A week ago our morning sermon was entitled, “Pride Comes Before Denial.”  In this sermon, Shawn, our pastor, spoke about the five manifestations of pride.  While these did not directly deal with prayer they all seem to lend themselves to teach something about prayer, or a person with a poor prayer life.

1. Pride argues with Christ even as it expresses allegiance with Christ.
2. Pride dismisses the truth of Scripture on the basis that God doesn’t know or understand our hearts.
3. Pride justifies disobedience on the basis that God doesn’t know or understand our circumstances.
4. Pride exalts ourselves over others (Shawn’s point spoke about exalting ourselves over those with God-given authority over us but with prayer I believe we just exalt ourselves over others period).
5. Pride confesses complete faith in Christ while still depending on one’s own strength and resources.

The next week the sermon was on Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  There was much that God spoke to me from this sermon but one thing really stood out.  It was the following statement:  [speaking about the prayer to God in the Garden immediately preceding the betrayal of Christ]…This is where the battle was won against Satan.

So this prayer and the resolve that Jesus felt after the prayer is where Satan was defeated?  This really made me think about the POWER of prayer.  Then a little further in the sermon there was this section about Temptation/Spiritual Tragedy that listed the steps that lead to temptation and tragedy.  The steps were as follows:

1. Self confidence [so sure they didn’t feel the need to depend on God in prayer]
2. Spiritual indifference [apathy in the Christian faith which is most characterized by a lack of prayer]
3. Temptation [lack of prayer equals a lack of dependence on God]
4. Sin [temptation gives way to sin as we fail to put on the full armour of God, including prayer]
5. Spiritual tragedy [falling away from our Lord]

At this point I was feeling pretty bad about myself and beat up about my poor prayer life.  I knew what God was telling me through this exposition of His word was to Pray.  Again and again He was bringing me the reasons why I should pray.  But itg was the same question as always…what to do next?

The next Sunday in MIT once again prayer came up.  We are studying The Holy Spirit and Sanctification and look what is on page 97 of the book we are studying:

If we work without the Spirit {to be sanctified}, we will be frustrated. On the other hand, if we leave it all to the Spirit and do not work, we will also end in failure. But combine the Spirit with work; then increasing victory will be ours. The secret of holy living is found in this combination. With it the Christian can have success.   The first work is to pray for a fuller presence of the Holy Spirit and Christ in his life….We may pray in faith for an increased indwelling of the Spirit in our lives, and we shall receive it.  We must remember that prayer is not simply a pious expression of devotion and thanks to God, but it is also a means of power. …It is necessary to persevere, for example – to go to God again and again with the same request.  It is also essential to go believing and expecting that He will answer our prayers, and not simply desiring an answer, thinking at the same time that God will not grant it….Faith is composed of trust as well as of knowledge.

Once again, I was floored by the teaching that God was sending my way about prayer.  The final piece of the puzzle was soon to fall into place for me.

Later that same evening in Tom’s evening sermon the last piece was given to me.  Tom said the following (I’m paraphrasing because I can’t possible write as fast as Tom can preach when he gets going):  You must labor to obey but it is natural and comfortable when you know God’s love through Christ.  What fuels our prayer lives?  When we are saturated in the knowledge of the love of God, our prayer life will be energized.  In our walk of faith, it is all energized and moved when we see the great love and grace to us through Jesus Christ, and the full assurance of our faith.

And therein was my problem with prayer in a nutshell:  I had a problem reconciling how much God loves me.  Growing up with a “fire and brimstone” type pastor, I tended to think of God more as the disciplinarian type Father.  When I sinned, I would feel like I disappointed Him and would actually avoiding God by not praying rather than face Him in His anger.  But that is such a wrong way of thinking.  That is totally leaving out the Love of God and Jesus Christ.  I was focusing on the wrath of Christ and not the love.

How freeing it is to remember that God loves me, He wants to hear from Me, I am his child and He wants me to talk with Him just a sure as I want my children to talk to me.  I can already feel a great change in the way I am thinking about prayer.

1 Peter 5:7  Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.

Zephaniah 3:17 The LORD your God is in your midst,
a  mighty One who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will  quiet you by His love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.

 

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