Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees. – Corrie Ten Boom
I once had a Sunday school teacher equate prayer to an invisible phone line that went up to heaven. It was her cheesy explanation of how prayer works. The difference being that there were no busy signals and, with today’s technology, nor would there be warnings of a battery dying or calls dropping.
I can honestly say that I’ve since learned that prayer isn’t like that at all. God does not work that way. He longs for a relationship with each of His children; one where the child is changed.
We’re currently studying a portion of the life of Daniel at my church here in the Twin Cities (Daniel 6:1-17 if you’d like to check it out) and the idea of having a foundational prayer life (living in such a way that my relationship with God is the foundation, the rock, on which I stand) was brought to light for me this past Sunday through the gift God gave one of my closest friends. (Sermon can be heard here, located under “Heroes of Faith: Daniel”.) Through this study on this particular hero of faith, we were drawn to verse 10, which ends with “Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
Did you catch that?
Just as he had done before…
Prayer wasn’t something new for Daniel. Prayer was an act he practiced each and every day.
Just as he had done before…
Prayer changed him from the inside out.
Just as he had done before…
Talk about commitment!
Daniel maintained a healthy fear of God, which kept his fear in the right place. He wasn’t afraid of what this world could do to him.
God never demanded that Daniel get on his knees three times a day. He didn’t have to – it was his delight. No government decree could keep him from praying to [God], loving Him, seeking Him, worshiping Him. He was much more committed to God’s eternal glory than to his personal survival.” – Scotty Smith
For Daniel, prayer wasn’t based on his situation; it was the foundation on which everything else was built. When the situations in his life changed, how he related to God remained constant. It never changed.
Being obedient to God also led to his safety in the lion’s den (punishment for going against the new rule King Darius put in writing). It was through his prayer life that Daniel’s faith was strengthened and he was able to face certain death to proclaim the name of His God. Oh, if I were to be that bold and daring!
Events, people and situations change, but our relationship with God stays the same. – Rick Wipf & Ben Gietzen
We live in a country where we can freely worship and pray. There are countless believers around the world who are persecuted for their faith, even to the point of death, and they never renounce the name of Jesus as Lord. I also know that we won’t have religious freedom forever…the Bible says so. We must understand that culture doesn’t dictate how we live out our faith. We live our faith out based on God. The rest is just the details.
I long for that in my own life: that consistency, both on my part and coming to the full knowledge of how constant and good God is.
Prior to my college career, I used to pray when I or someone else needed something. I also prayed out of habit before I went to bed and before each meal…that was what I was taught and I obeyed because it was expected. Now that I’ve been learning to move beyond the legality of religion and into the freedom of Jesus Christ, I still pray for blessing over my meals – but not all the time. The guilt that used to come with missing it faded away. Instead, prayer is now a constant in my everyday life. I’m constantly thinking about, focusing on and searching for God throughout most of my day. I say most because, yes, I do fall. I get distracted by the millions of things that bombard me: my responsibilities, that text message coming in, an email, the next phone call. Thing is, I get to choose to come back; to reel my focus back to Whom it belongs.
Prayer is of the utmost importance. It’s not an end even though we tend make it one. It’s the primary means by which we communicate to and relate with God. We cannot develop their spiritual life and grow in actually knowing Jesus Christ in a personal and intimate way if we don’t spend time with Him. We are given the ability to overcome temptation and grow in holiness when we continue to come before Him in prayer, day in and day out. And we become more like Him.
Have you ever heard the phrase “you become like those you spend time with”? It’s true. The more time you spend with God, the more you become like Him. Prayer allows Him to change you from the inside out.
Have you ever just hung out with Jesus?
What does that look like in your life?
For me, it’s a continuous conversation that gets picked up frequently throughout my day. It occurs when I first crawl out of bed in the morning and continues when I’m on my way to work. It happens when I’m talking to a distressed caller. I even carry that conversation when I’m at the gym. You get the idea.
Some may view this as a waste of time and would argue that you can’t “hear” God talk back to you. I’ve even been asked, “Why risk looking like a lunatic who talks to herself?”
I can’t help but laugh…and not this sarcastic laugh either. It’s the deep, joyous kind of laugh because I know His voice. I’ve heard it. I’ve felt His Spirit stir within my heart and soul.
I’ve leaned in.
I’ve discovered a thing or two about Him and how He relates to me.
He greets me with the sunrise each morning, even on cloudy days.
He pours His love over me through His Word with each piece of scripture I meditate on to kick off my day.
He reminds of my purpose the minute I open the daily Scripture emails I receive.
He shows me glimpses of His glory when a cardinal or purple finch lands on my balcony.
He soothes my soul with the whisperings of His Spirit when I am at a loss for words. Have you ever sat in silence before God? Sure, it’s intimidating not knowing what He will do when we drop the walls on the box we tend to continuously put Him in, but in doing so, He moves in ways we cannot comprehend. It’s satisfying. It’s fulfilling.
And more often than not, He speaks to me through the music I choose to listen to; He always has. It’s through songs like “Unstoppable Love” by Kim Walker-Smith, “How He Loves” by David Crowder, “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin and more that make me stop and think. They set my emotions on ablaze; passions stir and the next I know, I’ve got “spirit-flesh” (a.k.a. goose bumps/chills).
And as for the lunatic thing: well, I wish I didn’t have to break it to you, but with the technology of the Bluetooth and smart phones, I’ve seen my fair share of people who look like they’re talking to themselves. I should be able to blend right in! Welcome to the twenty-first century. But then, most of my conversation with God occurs in my mind and in my heart. And it is my hope that I will choose, starting today, to be more intentional when it comes to my prayer life; to delight in Him always.
How about you? Have you experienced God today? Have you simply knelt before Him in silence, allowing Him to speak into your life; into your heart?
Don’t simply base it on your situation, depending on where you are at in life and what you’re struggling/dealing with. Actively seek to put prayer at the foundation of your relationship with God. Pray based on where you are in this moment, and the next. Be intentional about making the time to hang out with Him. Is life good? Thank and praise Him! Are things hard? Seek counsel, wisdom and comfort from Him. And sometimes, you may simply need to “be still and know that He is God.” Take delight in your God.
If what God thinks matters most, then you consult Him most. If what God does matters most, then you ask Him to act first. In other words, you live your life by prayer. – Scotty Smith