FRiday reFResh - How To Pray
Sorry, I'll try to stop with the failed alliterations.
Mini-update: I missed another Wednesday in the Word, and I'm sad :( It's been a pretty rough week mentally, physically, and emotionally, but God is good :) It's been a really good time of reflection and processing global and national events, as well as seeking God more. I can write a more in-depth update tomorrow, perhaps, when I am a little bit more mentally present. I've just taken my medications, and I'm slightly loopy...
Which is definitely the perfect time to introduce a new mini-series that I want to put together in this blog. I was just thinking about how limiting "Wednesday in the Word" can be in terms of blogging about the Christian lifestyle - Christ is with us every day, not just Wednesday! I just felt like it would be fun to have different blogging styles and series for different days of the week, and for FRiday reFResh, I want to just throw in little reminders for believers and also share some small basics with non-believers regarding our faith.
As you can probably tell from the title, this post is about prayer. This was the first question I ever asked in being piqued to understand more about Christianity: How do you pray? Obviously, there's some invisible being out there, dubbed God, that Christians talk to, but how do you talk to Him?
I think one of the most confusing things for me when I first became a Christian was trying to understand God in all of his many roles. He is God the Father, Christ the Son, Jesus the friend, Prince of Peace, King above all Kings... I remember I was so confused by all of these names, and I had no idea what to do with all of it. So... this God/Jesus dude is royalty? And my father and friend?
When I first began to learn to pray, I just followed what people around me said in prayer. "Father God... thank you for.... sorry for..... we lift up.... we pray this in Jesus name, Amen.", and this is still a good template to use to pray, especially in larger group settings or in front of a congregation. It's very simple, to the point, and follows a looser-modern template of The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). It shows reverence to God's holiness and His goodness, as well as his merciful character to forgive our sins. It also leads us to pray in faith, trusting in God to hear the prayers we lift up - whether we are interceding for ourselves, a situation, or others.
However, prayer is not just something we should be doing at the end of the day, during our devotionals, before food, or in the face of stressful circumstances - prayer should be constant, and it's a consistent, never-ending conversation we should have with God.
Prayer can be an argument with God, "Big Guy, I know you're watching over this, but I'm so angry, why is this happening? Aren't you supposed to be on our side? Aren't you supposed to send your Angels' Army to fight alongside your faithful believers? Why are you leaving me alone in this time? Don't you know I need you?"
It can be a best-friend gossip session, "Wow, God, you're so funny in the ways that you bring comedic relief during times like this. I know I shouldn't laugh, but the huge one that James let rip was the best moment of 2020. God, I know there are so many more blessings you're providing that I can't see, and not just in the form of stinky bean-farts. You're the best."
Before Christ, there was no link for man and God to have a relationship, because sin ruined our relationship. Only few chosen people were able to have God speak through them, and the idea of being able to have a conversation with God was really unlikely, and honestly rather scary. If you read what the prophets (those who were chosen to be able to speak with God) talk about, it's mostly really depressing and full of death. Because Christ defeated sin and death, we can all have a relationship with God.
On God's end, His relationship is always perfect. On our end, our relationships are often marred with temptation and our own desires. It reflects in our relationships with each other; and our relationship with God is not always perfect. But as we reflect on God's relationship with us as not just the King of Kings and unreachable - but as the loving Father who created us and the loving Friend who died for us, we realize there are many facets to this relationship that are often untapped.
How often when you are going through a hard time, you call a friend to rant, and it turns into a gossip session about "Oh-em-gee, Karen is such an 'interesting character'!" ? (Sorry, please excuse my medically induced loopiness, I'm typing as my thoughts run, and I'm wondering if I will read this tomorrow wondering where my mind is). But what if instead of turning to a friend of this world, you turned to the God? Where instead of allowing your anger to build up against a person or circumstance, you wrestle with God and listen to Him remind you of His faithfulness? That hard times are here to reveal our sins and idols, so that we can turn away from them and be molded into men and women of God? That while our emotions can run deep in the moment, we can come to a point of peace from knowing that God has our back in all situations?
I was reading through Hebrews 3, and was reminded that God was not upset with the Israelites for being upset about being in the desert for 40 years. The Bible talks about how God puts us through refine's fire (Zachariah 13:9) to refine our characters as His people. I can't think of a more realistic, applicable situation than sticking people in a scorching hot desert. Being put through that kind of heat is miserable! God wouldn't have minded complaints and cries of woe over this circumstance - if you read all of Psalms, half of them are David begging God for change. However, what God was angered by is that the Israelites continually focused on the negative - that being in the desert for 40 years was worse than serving the evil Egyptians - and didn't remember God's faithfulness and goodness. They didn't see how God provided food, water, and shelter for them, and how they were protected from danger, and that their clothing never wore out. These miracles can only be done by God, and yet the people were so ignorant of Him, because they were focused only on the worldly things.
What constant prayer is supposed to do is to allow for our hearts to be more aligned with the Spirit, so that we can have better discernment in understanding the plans that God has for us. "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." - Romans 8:26-27. God isn't looking for us to only pray when we are praising Him or asking for an A+ on a final we didn't study for. God desires fellowship - He created us for fellowship with Him. Why else were we created in His image? Jesus came in flesh to understand man - though He never fell to the temptations of sin, He knows the pull and our weaknesses against the Enemy. He desires, but doesn't expect, us to give Him a perfect relationship; He predicted His disciples' betrayal, and still gave us His perfect love. God knows our weaknesses, and He will help us overcome them, but that can only happen if we can turn over these weaknesses to Him and leave them at the cross. The only way? Prayer. Constant prayer. Having a constant, ongoing conversation is the only way to talk things out and have a better understanding of God's Will for us.
So, I'm sure that some non-believers may be reading this thinking Christians are all bat-crazy people who talk to ourselves. But I want to ask you this: do you ever have a conversation with yourself? Even something trivial, like food: "Ice cream... diet... be good, go for the celery, but ice cream." I would say that prayer is similar to that, but recognizing that rather than speaking to ourselves and relying on ourselves to come up with a definite answer, we rely on the Holy Spirit for discernment, and can give our trust that the outcome is in God's control. I personally experienced a huge shift and change in perspective when I learned to pray versus battling with my own conscience. It's such a huge pressure to tell myself that I have to make the perfect decision for the perfect outcome - and the thing is, as humans, we can't see the future. Even if we had the gift of clairvoyance, we can't change what happens. Look at Jonah, he can run all he wants, but God's Will will be done. Recognizing that gives me peace, whereas before, I blamed myself for anything that didn't come out the way wanted. It was pride and ego - who am I as a small little human bean to believe I can control the future? Prayer gives me clarity over the situation, and a chance to surrender that anxious need for control and trust in God's Wisdom and Sovereignty over all things.
This post is getting very long, and my eyes are getting very heavy. But just as a recap: prayer is just a conversation. A conversation that you have with someone you revere - God is afterall the King of Kings, holy, and sovereign over all. However, God is also a personal God. For me to speak to Him as my Father may reflect differently for an orphan who has never met their earthly father. There really isn't a set guideline for how you personally pray to God in every moment of the day. However, prayer should ultimately lead you to revelation and repentance - knowing and recognizing that God is holy, that even when we fail, He forgives us and loves on us, intercedes for us, and hears our prayers.