This past Sunday our pastor had an excellent sermon on the power of prayer. One of the things that was notable for me personally was it revealed to me how much I have changed in the past 4-5 years.
One of the things he started with, was that the topic of prayer in sermons is often right up there in terms of difficulty for pastors and their congregations as the topic of money is. I would have to agree with this. Because prayer is something we as Christians know we SHOULD do, but struggle to do, so guilt and all sorts of related emotions often come into play.
4-5 years ago I would have listened to this sermon and been invaded with that guilt. I would have been confronted with the reality that my prayer life was, in fact, lacking. This time I didn’t. Something else struck me, but not guilt. What struck me this time, as he went through his message, was that over this period of time I have learned to engage in praying all sorts of things, and in fact, all 12 on one list he had. Not equally, but all of them.
Wow. What a change in my life. And it wasn’t me. It was God. And it wasn’t quick. The process has been slightly over 4 years. And it wasn’t easy. I wrestled with God many, many times. I still do. But God called me to it, He kept at me in it, and He has been faithful.
Have I gotten answers to all my prayers? Absolutely not. Have I gotten answers to any of them? More than a person might think. And the answer wasn’t always, or even often, yes. (And not getting a yes doesn’t mean we get a no, God isn’t so black and white). Most often the answer was simply that I got to know God better. I learned more about who He is, His character, His beauty, His awe inspiring magnificence. I often asked God for something, and He gave me Himself. But isn’t that the best answer Friends?
Now, I know this may come across as arrogant or boastful. In fact, the sermon started with scripture on not praying in public places just so others would see us praying, and think highly of us. Ouch. That’s what hit my heart hard and convicted me this morning. Because between you and me, I love attention. OK, not all attention. But I love attention in the form of a public audience (introvert that I am, I am energized and inspired speaking to small or large groups). And I love attention to my writing – that would be likes/loves and comments on FB and my blogs, but I also love people telling me later what I wrote spoke to them. So I had to ask myself, when I offer to pray publicly, am I seeking to be thought of as good, and Holy? The truth? I don’t always know. (I’m going to have to pray about that!) I do know that I often do it because I feel called to it, like an actual pull on my heart and soul. But now, I am going to work on discerning better if, and when, my pride comes into play. Because pray is my gift, it is my ministry, and I really do want it to be about God, and for God. But I also know pride is one of the sins I struggle with the most.
Let me end with this. Intercessory Prayer is one of my two primary spiritual gifts (the other one is mercy). It is not everyone’s main spiritual gift, or one of their spiritual gifts at all. And that’s just fine. We don’t all have, nor should we, the same giftings. What good would a body do with all elbows and nothing else?
So please don’t ever feel guilty reading something I write, or listening to someone else talk about their prayer life, and feel bad because your prayer life is different. Yes, God wants you to pray. He may be instructing you to pray more often, or differently. That is between you and Him. Don’t base expectations for your prayer life on someone else’s. Instead, learn from His Word about what prayer is, and how to do it. (Back to great sermon on that this morning). And as you are led, seek help and fellowship with others in your prayer life. For yourself, for your God and King.
And know this, God doesn’t want perfect, polished prayers. He doesn’t want someone else’s prayers. He wants yours. Just as they are. Right now. Today. Come as you are. Pray as you can. Just talk to Him. In the end, that is the sum of what prayer is, conversation with God. And He longs to talk to you.