Life Challenges, Prayer, and a Relationship with God
What is prayer to you? Is it just hopeful or desperate words letting God know you need or want something?
I’m finding that it is so much more.
Despite any questioning, discouragement, or perplexity that my cancer diagnosis of three and a half years ago has produced, today’s morning devotional reading reminds me:
“No calamity will ever bring only evil to us, if we will immediately take it in prayer to God. . . And when we flee to God, taking refuge beneath the shadow of His wing, we will always find more in Him than we have ever before seen or known.” Nathaniel William Taylor
I have been saturating myself with books and music that are faith building, healing, and peace producing. I am learning the daily benefit of ducking under the shadow of His wings at any anxious, disturbing, baffling, or irritating moment; sometimes talking to Him in words, thoughts, or emotions, and other times just being in His presence.
If you believe that prayer only happens when you are kneeling at an altar, or reading words to God from a prayer book (as beautiful or heartfelt as those words may be) than you are missing out on a true delight of the Spirit life.
Although the writer quoted above refers to the “shadow of His wing”, I picture my Father’s arm around my shoulder as I move about doing my chores, chattering to Him. During my listening times He draws me near Him as I sit on the rug in front of my couch, facing the sliding glass door to our deck that overlooks our back yard and adjoining field, with the stand of tall trees at its back edge; focusing my thoughts on the beauty He has created.
I used to turn to God mostly with my troubles and needs, or those of my friends and acquaintances; sending my prayers up to Him and hoping, sometimes actually trusting, that He heard them. And wondering if He would be pleased to answer those prayers as I confidently recommended to Him my most logical solutions.
I’ve read several awesome books on prayer in the last 3 years – I’ll recommend some of them in my next post. But nothing – including a good “how to do prayer” book – brings us into the essence of real prayer more quickly than personal, on-going challenges, either temporary – or as the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” seemed to be – permanent ones.
Prayer is more than having faith – though without faith, prayer seems to be ineffective.
Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”
I believe that though faith is what brings us to God in prayer, it’s trust that gives us assurance that our prayers are being answered in spite of current appearances to the contrary. And you don’t trust someone you don’t know.
God is knowable and wants to be known. The Hebrews passage above points us to relationship with God – “for whoever would draw near to God” – rather than merely sending prayers up or out to wherever we picture God “residing”.
Relationship with God – think about that for a minute – not just faith or belief in God. “Relationship” shows nearness – like husband/wife, parent/child, aunt/uncle, boyfriend/girlfriend, horse/rider – personal connection.
So instead of picturing yourself in your place of prayer sending SOSes to God somewhere out there, picture your Heavenly Father’s arm around you drawing you to a seat on the couch next to Him – or if that scares you a bit – seated across from you in the stuffed chair.
Hear Him ask you, “Well, child, how’s your day going?”
“Did you receive that gift I sent you yesterday: that call from your friend? That unexpected check in the mail? That beautiful sunset I painted for you? What did you think of that?”
“By the way, I heard that prayer you said for your friend; he’s in serious trouble. But I’m taking care of him.”
As you let your spirit respond to Him, drawing near and becoming personal, you feel the weights lift off your mind, body and spirit.
Then, hear Him ask, “Now what’s on your heart today? What would you like for me to do for you?”
You pour out your requests; big, small and sometimes ridiculous – being confident from your time with your Father that what’s important to you is also important to Him, because He loves you. That the answers are already there, or on the way – though occasionally He may say, “No. I have a different plan” and often will say, “Wait a while – it’s not time yet.”
This is the next step for faith – this thing called trust – because you won’t put your faith in someone you don’t trust. This is the confident assurance of conversational prayer that is born out of a heart-relationship with the One we’re petitioning – it goes beyond a certain time on the clock, or a ritualistic physical posture, or recitation of words, or a call to religious duty.
So, whatever else our personal challenges do to us, when we trust our Father, we find they also do something for us – they draw us into a deeper relationship with Him, where He shapes our character, changes our perspective, and conforms us to the image of His Son.
How’s your prayer life going? Anything you’d like to share?
©2011, Marcy Alves
*Lifesong by Mark Hall as heard on Casting Crowns album Lifesong
Posted on November 10, 2011, in Christian Growth, Follow Me, God Encounters, My Journey, Reflections and tagged calamity, Cancer, Christianity, conforming to Christ, faith, God’s love, knowing God, listening times, personal challenges, prayer, relationship with God, shadow of His wings, spiritual life, trust. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.