One of my former Bible study leaders once said that prayer was not just about asking God for things and dumping all of our concerns, worries and wants out to God, but that prayer involved listening to God. Over time, this statement has helped change how I view prayer and approach God in prayer. For a good part of my Christian walk, it never dawned on me that God just wanted to have a relationship with me and wanted for me to get to know Him for who He IS, and not for what He could do for me. The idea of a relationship with God began to make so much more sense when I began to see examples of other people’s interactions with God in the Bible and through hearing testimonies of some of today’s Christians.
Before sin entered the world, prayer was not needed. God and man talked daily without obstacles. (Unfortunately for us, Adam and Eve were the only two people to experience this incredible relationship without barriers from God.) However, the goal in praying to God should be aiming to get back to this type of righteous relationship – enjoying God’s presence, and seeking His will in all things. It doesn’t matter the time or day that I find myself in, setting aside time for prayer is always difficult. There have been a handful of times and seasons in my life that praying to God has seemed easier and more approachable than other times, but for the most part, initiating prayer is a daily struggle. There’s always an excuse that I can think of that explains why I shouldn’t pray right now, why I don’t need to, and why I don’t want to. Ultimately, the issue comes down to a battle of wills and whether or not I am going to pursue my own will, or submit and seek after God’s will.
For most Christians, no matter how long or short they’ve been walking in the new life, cultivating an active and consistent prayer life is hard. The good thing about God is that He hears our prayers the moment they are uttered and God has promised us several things regarding our prayers (even if the communication lines have been rather lacking.)
In Luke 11:9-10, God promises that if we ask anything of Him that it will be given to us, if we seek we will find, and if we knock, the door will be opened. Whatever the answer is that God responds with, whether yes, no, or wait, we are guaranteed an answer to the given problem or request. The parable with these verses gives readers a picture of the “importune friend,” or persistent friend who won’t stop knocking at his friend’s door in the middle of night for bread. The awakened man has already settled down for the night and put his children to bed. Jesus explains that he is not going to give his knocking friend bread just because he’s his friend, but rather because of his “annoying” persistence to get the bread. So, when we pray to God and take our requests to Him, and we pray really, really hard, if we don’t get an answer right away, we should keep praying and knocking on God’s door. I like to think that God would not have given us humans the quality of persistence if He already didn’t have it himself and use it often on people to get His will accomplished and needs met. Persistence is crucial.
On the flipside, when God knocks on our door, we need to give Him the same courtesy and immediate attention that He gives to us. We need to respond to Him as soon as we have an answer and with honesty- if this is hard to do, just remember that God knows your thoughts before you think them and He ALWAYS gives you the benefit of the doubt. We serve a God who is all about relationships, and more importantly, God desires us more than we desire Him.
Here are a few tips that may help further develop a persistent prayer life:
- You don’t need to reinvent the wheel (see Matt. 6:5-15, Luke 11:2-4 for Jesus’ doctrine of prayer.)
- Start simple. Praying one verse a day is powerful enough to connect you to God.
- Prayer is talking and listening to God.
- Your flesh never dies. Praying will not always feel glamorous.
- God needs you to pray so that He can interact on earth and accomplish His will in YOUR life.
- Sometimes we don’t get the answer we want. Know that God can be petitioned through righteous means (see the ways in which Moses [Ex. 32:9-14,] David [Ps. 51,] and Abraham [Gen. 18:16-33,] all petitioned God.)
- Don’t give up on prayer with God. He hasn’t given up on you.
- Jesus is ALWAYS praying and interceding for you (see John chapter 17.)