As we wrap up this miniseries on Prayer, How to Talk with God, I wanted to share one last thought on prayer. This might be the most difficult, yet important, aspect to talking with God.
When it comes to prayer, God’s opinion is the one that matters most. Our prayers should be genuine, honest and simple. There are moments when it may seem difficult to pray. It might be challenging during those hard times, but realize that you can still pray, hear from God and be heard. Dave Ramsey says about success with personal finances are 80% behavioral and 20% head knowledge. It’s the putting the plan into action that makes it difficult. Praying genuine, honest and simple prayers are 80% doing it, and 20% head knowledge.
Paul, a church leader who wrote a large portion of the Bible, encouraged the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica to pray without ceasing. I remember the first time hearing that statement. I thought it was the stupidest thing I’d heard up that point in my life. Does God really expect me to walk around throwing thee’s and thou’s and hedges of protection around for everyone to hear? Does God really expect me to drive, walk, go to school or work with my eyes closed?
When we have a confused perspective on prayer, it can seem like the wisdom from the Bible is foolishness. Understanding that God is looking for genuine, honest and simple prayers changes our perspective. When Paul is encouraging the followers of Jesus to pray without ceasing, he’s encouraging us to talk with God and listen for God’s voice throughout the day.
There’s a man named Brother Lawrence who wrote a book entitled The Practice of Presence of God. He explained how while doing normal everyday functions we could have a conversation with God as if he was there with us.
Here’s the reality. Humans are spiritual beings wrapped in a physical body. We can’t really touch the spiritual aspect of our lives, but we know it’s there. This is why as humans we hold funerals when someone passes away, saying kind words about the individual. This is also why some of us can have all the material possessions and yet yearn for more. It’s not more materialistic things we actually desire, its purpose and significance that we actually crave. As spiritual beings wrapped in a physical body, understanding that God, another spiritual being, is present with us even in the moments we can’t sense or feel Him. The more we Practice the Presence of God, the clearer we understand God’s voice in our lives.
Some of us may have grown up practicing our faith, but as we moved up in years, we may have walked away from that practice of faith. RE.THINK Church is a safe place for anyone to explore their faith or even reconnect with his/ her faith. Our purpose in existing is to help lead people in a maturing relationship with Jesus. We understand that for some people, exploring the faith they once knew might be a starting point. If we can do anything to help with that process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Email me personally at email@example.com.
How to pray when God is silent
If you had a chance to share with people what your relationship with God looks like, what would you say? In high school, I was asked to do this up on stage one Sunday morning at our church. I figured I would just be honest with everyone. I got up on stage and without making much eye contact, I shared how God and I used to be close. In the past, I could hear him talking to me when I prayed and I could feel him in my life, but not anymore. God had been silent for what felt like two or more years. So, I went up on stage and told them, “Look, I’m trying as hard as I can to get close again to God. I am reading my Bible, praying, going to church and I just don’t feel like he is here. Things in my life do not seem to be changing and prayer doesn’t seem to matter.” Honest truth. The following week, I was surprised as I started getting notes from people all throughout our church. They all said the same thing. They had been in my situation and there was hope.
It’s not uncommon for Christians to feel this way, even really faithful Christians seeking the Lord every day. Which means this is an important issue to address. Why does God allow us to feel this way? Where is he? And what can I do to get through this season? I’d like to give you guys a few tips on how to survive the season and where I have found God in the midst of the silence.
First off, we need to address the myth that God is silent because we are not doing enough. We do not have to earn his love. Regardless of whether or not you have believed in Christ your whole life or you want nothing to do with him, the Bible says that he is fighting for us and chasing us down. It doesn’t always feel that way though does it? It’s easy to think God is ignoring us when we have been praying for him to show up in our lives for some time and we see no results. Personally, I get so mad at God, but here is what I have learned. God loves us way too much to not want to give us the best life available to us. Our dreams and promotions are not going to be sustainable in our lives without character development. None of our time in the silence is wasted.
If you look in the Bible, you will struggle to find someone that was used by God without first going through a time of struggle, silence or questioning God’s goodness. Don’t waste this time of silence or feel discouraged thinking that God doesn’t care. Silence actually means the opposite. When God is silent, feel encouraged that God loves you enough and that God has such a big plan for your life. Recognize that he is giving you time to work on your character in the silence. In my experience, seasons of silence are always followed by seasons of extreme blessing. Maybe someday I will get to share some of the miraculous things that occurred after my seasons of silence. Today, I want to focus on some tips to get you through those “quiet” seasons.
1. Always remember in the dark seasons what God has spoken to you in the good seasons. When God feels distant and life seems impossible, Satan spreads his lies with great effectiveness. Hold tight to what you know to be true even if your heart does not feel it. The Bible says that the heart is deceitful (Jer 17:9). Trust in truth not your heart.
2. Remind yourself of truth (Phil. 4:8). Read your Bible. Memorize scriptures. Listen to worship music. Listen to sermons online. The more you speak the truth into your life, the firmer you will stand until the silence breaks.
3. When you no longer have the strength to pray because you are discouraged, remember that the Bible promises that in those moments, the Holy Spirit steps in on our behalf and prays for us to the Father (Rom. 8:26-27). Jesus was here too. He felt the same way we so at times and He has compassion for us. When we are weak, He steps up and fights for us. Hold onto that truth.
4. Surround yourself with people who will speak truth to you (Prov. 19:20-21). The best thing you can do for yourself is to surround yourself with Christians who know what the silence is like and yet know how to trust God through it until the season of blessing. They will give you strength.
This process is hard. This process may not always feel worth it while you are in it. When the silence breaks, I promise it is worth it. If you can hold strong in the silence, God will use you in incredible ways. So hold on.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” -Galatians 6:9
Photo by Timothy Barlin (@timbar) on Unsplash
I heard several strange things growing up in church. I remember not understanding all of them. Some I figured out on my own and just hoped I came to the right conclusion. One thing I thought was strange was that whenever someone prayed, they said things I never heard them say while not praying. One time a guy and I were talking about Notre Dame football while Lou Holtz was the head coach at Notre Dame. The guy was not a fan of Coach Holtz and called Lou any and every kind of name you can imagine. A few minutes later, he got up to pray in our church service and randomly said words like sanctify us, purify our country, hedges of protection, bless her heart, traveling mercies and everyone else’s unspoken requests. He also prayed “Bless Pastor “Bill”. May he give us a meaty sermon today.”
Every week, I heard the phrase “Give us a meaty sermon today.” My mouth would salvate. I literally expected a steak (steak tacos would have been heaven on earth)! Each week, I left disappointed. In my opinion, that prayer request went unanswered!
I had never heard this particular guy say any of these words together. Then when I started following Jesus, the stupidest thing happened. I started praying that way. When our sons were born, I realized I was a major influence in shaping their views about God. We would pray and I started to realize that the way I was praying was irrelevant. They would pray and their prayers were so genuine, honest and simple.
Shad would pray for the cat across the street to get better. Carson would pray that a certain leader at our church wouldn’t stink and that her breath would smell like Fruit Loops instead of butt. They would ask God , “Why did our neighbor get sick?” and “God why did the Patriots win the Super Bowl?” Shad would often pray asking God why Notre Dame didn’t win football games. He would then listen urgently waiting on a response from God. Carson once found a squirrel. He named him “Squirrely”. He prayed that Squirrely would live forever. Sadly that wasn’t the case.
I was amazed how genuine, honest and simple my sons’ prayers were. God taught me something during those years. Keep your prayers genuine, honest and simple.
At one point in the Bible, Jesus was surrounded by children. He let everyone know in the setting that the kingdom of Heaven belongs to people like these children. Let’s pray like children, genuine, simple and honest.
There’s no need to lie to God and act like you’re having the best day ever when you’re really not. Be genuine, get to the point and simply be honest.
Prayer is a two-way street as well. Take some time and listen to God. I know that seems extremely strange and maybe a little wacky. God never intended for us not to listen to him though. I believe there is a reason we have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we speak. This can be said for both our friendships and how we talk as well as how we engage our prayer life.
Photo by Christian Gertenbach on Unsplash
I grew up going to church. We would wake up on Sunday mornings and my mom would wrestle the four of us to get dressed in our Sunday best. I’m pretty sure my hair was completely unkempt most of those Sundays. I was bored out of my mind most Sundays. My main goal during the service was to figure out how to get to the ‘fellowship hall’s kitchen’ without being caught. I knew that there was a group of old men keeping the box of donuts safe while devouring 3-4 donuts each. I just wanted one for myself (for the record that had happened 3 times in my life).
The optimal time for me to make my move was during the most boring part of the service, The Pastoral Prayer. If you’re not familiar with this part of some church traditions, let me explain. Someone reads the prayer requests of the entire church and sometimes the pastor would open the floor for prayer requests. My favorite though was when someone would shout out an urgent prayer request interrupting the pastor as he read through the other requests. After the prayer requests had been read, the pastor would pray and open the altar (the part at the front of most churches with a kneeling pad). If the Spirit was moving or if people were feeling particularly emotional, or they wanted to get up and walk around after sitting for several minutes they would go the altar to pray. People would go the altar praying for every part of their life. They prayed for distant children, health concerns, state of the nation etc. Prayer time felt like it never ended!
I heard of eternity in my Sunday School class and I’m pretty sure they were talking about this part of the service. For a kid who struggled to sit still for 5 seconds the struggle was REAL. 99.9% of people pray with their eyes closed (not sure why, but they do). So when I wanted to make my move to the glorious donuts, this was my time. Like a child prodigy ninja , I stealthily worked my way through the church (I’d tell you how, but I don’t want people using my own skills against me in my own church) to get to the back and out the door to the donuts.
My mom really wanted us to follow Jesus so just going to the service wasn’t good enough. She wouldn’t return us to our home until we attended a second portion of the weekly experience called Sunday School. Sunday School wasn’t as boring. Sometimes we had snacks. We could talk and move around a bit. Each week the Sunday School teacher would ask each of us for prayer requests. She would then ask for a volunteer to pray for the prayer requests that each of us had just listed.
The person praying would elaborately pray for each prayer request. Most of the time he would use words we had heard our parents use or other adults during that altar call part of the service we just attended. They would say phrases like ‘Direct his steps, help him to follow your leading, bless her heart, Spirit move in her, hedge of protection, seeking His face, or walking in His mercy”. I still don’t know what some of those phrases really mean. Is God really concerned with the condition of our hedges and shrubs?
I remember the Sunday I realized that everyone else had figured out this whole prayer thing, but me. The Sunday School teacher asked for prayer requests and everyone went around sharing their requests. One kid was going to a karate tournament, one kid was going to a spelling bee that week, one kid’s parents were getting divorced, one kid wanted a pony and one kid really wanted a Nintendo Game Boy for Christmas (this was April). As everyone listed their requests, the teacher dutifully wrote them down. We all knew what was next… the tribute to pray for our class.
Like Katniss Everdeen, a girl wearing a blue dress rose her hand volunteering as tribute. The teacher ignored her and looked right at me. I hadn’t prayed at all this particular school year. This was my Sunday.
So everyone closed their eyes and I began the prayer. “Jesus thanks for being who you are…. You’re great. You just heard all the requests. Would you answer them? If you didn’t hear them for the past 5 minutes, Mrs. Smith wrote them down in her journal. You could read them from there. Thanks for this Tang. It was really good this week. -Amen”
I didn’t close my eyes because I just didn’t. I don’t know why people do that still. When I said “Amen”, the expression of shock and disappointment was evident on all their faces. A kid named Jeff laughed and a girl named Emily caringly asked me if I needed help praying the right way. Mrs. Smith wanted to see me after class. When we talked, she asked why I was so disrespectful in my prayer.
We started this miniseries to help people understand what prayer is, what it’s not and how to actually pray. We believe that prayer is powerful, effective and crucial as we explore our faith. It doesn’t have be this awkward, long or a boring part of our lives. It can be fun, impactful and meaningful.
I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t care if we use fancy elaborate words or not. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t require a minimum amount of words or amount of time while praying. I’m pretty sure Jesus just wants to talk with us. I really believe that when we use words we wouldn’t actually use in everyday life, it throws Jesus off. When we spend all our time talking and then saying Amen indicating the prayer is over, we miss out on the most important part of prayer, listening to Jesus.
Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash
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