Resolved: to grow my roots deeper in prayer in 2014
Whenever I try to learn something significant my mind rebels. It almost becomes comical.
Maybe you’ve experienced this dynamic. I also resolved this year to eat healthy and suddenly junk food jumps out in the break room, drops in at a friend’s house, lands next to me while the healthy food takes the back seat home from the grocery store. Same with my prayers since I resolved to pray in a deeper way. I start on my knees but soon turn to ponder the treetops from the bedroom window, then my eye travels to the decor of the room, and the dust on the dresser. And then . . . chores!
But I’m determined. And so, even though my prayer life seems to have gone downhill a bit due to the renewed focus, I press on. As I do, I sense God’s pattern of first tearing down before he can build up. Phase One of building my prayer life is deconstructing some losing strategies in prayer:
1. Don’t be insincere
My prayer life often stalls because I haven’t acted on God’s direction. Ken Davis learned asking God to “send a sign” about something he already knew to be God’s will is a waste of time or worse. Testing God by asking for a sign may result in a test you never thought you’d be asked to endure. Testing prayer may deliver at your feet the very thing you dread the most. But what about Gideon? He set out a fleece not once, but three times. I see Gideon offering clarifying prayers once God had initiated a specific calling. That’s a good and wise way to pray–especially when God’s direction seems especially counterintuitive or dangerous.
2. Don’t perform
There is no right or wrong formula for prayer, but many of us freeze at the prospect of praying aloud with others. When we simply speak our desire to connect with God, listen, and obey, praying becomes an exercise of grace. Ben Stiller’s character started well when he got pressed to say a blessing before the meal in Meet the Parents. He went off the rails the more he pressured himself for embellishment and eloquence that so clearly eluded him all along. If you get nervous having your prayers overheard, remember prayer is always for an audience of One.
3. Don’t overpray
Jesus said, “Don’t heap up empty phrases.” I know he was talking about rote prayers uttered just for the sake of tradition. But haven’t we as his followers developed some new-but-just-as-empty phrases of our own?! Leave it to Tim Hawkins to skewer us in love on this one. Understand: No request is too small; praying trifles is preferred over indulging a worried heart (see Phil. 4: 4 – 7). I just need to remember to offer my supplications with praise and thanksgiving, not filler words and fluff. (Whooops–I just slipped in a just. Doh! Just did it again).
As God tears down the old, he reminds me again that self-effort in spiritual matters will always leave me frustrated. But Romans 8:20 tells me when God frustrates us, he wants something to die off in order to make way for a new and better hope in our hearts–a hope based in truth and for his glory. God works with us to improve the way we pray. He is willing to teach us to pray.
He cares about our prayers–quality and quantity. He takes our feeble effort and multiplies it for his glory.
So even if, like me, you’re feeling a bit defeated in your prayer life, let’s keep going. The biggest mistake we can make would be not to pray at all.
Next time: 3 winning ways to pray