Ever struggle during prayer, not knowing what to say or even what to talk about? The bible promises that when you become a Christian, times of refreshing will come from the presence of the Lord (see Acts 3:19). If that's true, then why is prayer so hard sometimes?
Why does prayer feel so awkward, like I'm talking with a stranger I've never met? It's like I'm at an uncomfortable dinner party, looking for any excuse to leave. "Oh! Would you look at the time? I've got to run."
So my prayer turns into something like this: "Well, Lord, um...well, you know...I ... well....thanks for um, like the cross and stuff, and well, um.... Betty's sick so Lord, please bless her Father, and um, you know the light bill's due. Please help us with the bills Lord. And um, well, I gotta go. Because, well, the boys are fighting and all. Lord, please help them shut up. In Jesus' name Amen."
Whew. Prayer? Check. What's next on my to-do list?
It doesn't have to be that way.
You've probably heard a thousand sermons about how to pray. So have I. How's that great advice working out? For me, not so good. Too often, I struggle to put some "formula" into practice that's going to energize my conversations with the Lord.
But I was wondering: What does God want from our prayers? What does He get out of it?
Does He want us to ask for spiritual blessings? The bible says you and I already have every spiritual blessing (Eph 1:3). So why would I ask for something I already have? No wonder it feels awkward when I pray for spiritual blessings.
Should I ask God for what I need? Well, the bible says He already knows these things (Mat 6:8). No wonder it feels awkward to list all my needs, as if I'm informing Him of stuff He doesn't know. He's already on the case, meeting every need. Even the things I don't know I need. He's got that covered, too.
Before my wife goes grocery shopping, she always asks: "Is there anything you need from the store?" "Yes, honey. I need (fill in whatever junk foods I happen to "need" that day)."
That's what my prayer turns into sometimes. "Lord, I just want to let you know, while you're making plans for tomorrow, that I need you to do these small errands for me. If it's your will, of course. Thanks!"
Does He want us to ask? Sure. But not like someone who's bringing these things to His attention. I tell my wife things that I'm struggling with. I ask her questions. I listen to her perspective (or at least pretend to). That's how our conversations work. And - except for the pretending part - that's how God wants our conversations to work, too.
What does He want? All He wants from our prayer is to walk with Him in the cool of the day. Like Adam and Eve did before their sin and rebellion wrecked it all (Gen 3:8-9). Jesus died on the cross to restore that opportunity. Now, through Jesus, we can once again walk with God in the cool of the day. And that's all prayer is. No more, no less.
So, how can you do that?
First, when you read the Bible, seek above all else to know who God is. Don't go to the Bible to learn what rules to follow. Go to learn who Jesus is. When you see Him, you'll be like Him (1 John 3:2-3).
The stuff you think you "should" be learning how to do will come naturally to you as you fall deeper in love with Him. And you'll only fall deeper in love with Him as He reveals Himself to you in His Word.
Seek to know Him through the pages of His Word. Make that your only goal of Bible study. You'll love Him more, absorb more of what you read, and experience the times of refreshing God promised you.
Second, pause for a few seconds before you pray. Reflect on who God is (see Psalm 46:10). Think about what you're learning about who God is in relation to your situation:
- He's the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).
- He's the God who understands what you're going through (Hebrews 4:15).
- He's the God who provides (Gen 22:14).
- He's the God who says again and again, "Be strong and very courageous!" (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9)
- He's the God who says, "I will never leave you or forsake you" (Heb 13:5; Deut 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5).
Finally, ask God to help you if it's hard for you. Don't be ashamed. Guess what? He knows it's hard for you. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. Just get it all out on the table. If you ask anything according to His will, its a done deal. (1 John 5:14-15) You can walk away this instant, knowing God will revitalize your prayer life and your relationship with Him. You have His Word on it.
The question is: will I take my own advice?