What I learned about prayer this year

Jan 7, 2019 by

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Prayer has been an increasingly greater focus in my life the past two years and has been linked to my New Year’s resolutions (Well, actually the word I choose each year. Yes, I joined the one-word fad.).

Henri Nouwen states, “The basis of all ministry rests not in the moral life but the mystical life,” and I’ve been challenged by that statement. If I really believed that, then I would pray more. Thus, I’ve been reading Prayer: Does it Make a Difference?, Sanctuary of the Soul: A Journey into Meditative Prayer, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, and Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home.

I’ve also been blogging about prayer more as well, starting the year with researching how prayer has frequently led to revival and now I am ending the year by summarizing what I’ve been learning about prayer. I still need to continue to grow in actually praying, but I am encouraged by the greater priority I’ve been giving it.

So here are some concepts that have connected with me this year — from books, articles, sermons and my own personal experiences and struggles:

— Prayer isn’t as easy as it looks. Yes, it’s so available that anyone can do it. But it is really difficult to be willing to pray for years and not see results. Christians prayed for years that the Iron Curtain or South African apartheid would end. It seemed idealistic and impossible. Most never saw it happen in their lifetimes. Do I have that commitment, persistence and willingness to sacrifice my time?

— Just setting aside the time isn’t enough. I need to prepare mentally as well or push through when I’m distracted. Often I set aside time to pray on car trips. However, I usually find the initial car trip on a vacation is full of distractions and stress. The return trip usually seems to be much more meaningful.

— God interrupts. God likes to jump in when I’m in the middle of teaching or talking to someone else. I love this because then it is obvious that it’s God’s voice and not my own thoughts. An article I read this summer mentioned the importance of listening to God, so I started setting aside ten minutes each day to listen. God rarely spoke during those ten minutes, but later in the day, he would interrupt.

— The silence and the miracles are part of the relationship. A parent’s response to his child’s request varies, but he’s still impacted by the question.

— God negotiates. He welcomes honesty. Philip Yancey points out that Abraham, Moses, Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ananias, Paul all bargained/negotiated/argued/yelled at God — who seemed to encourage it. God eagerly extended mercy to Sodom and Gomorrah — lowering the number each time Abraham asked, and he wrestled with Jacob. This doesn’t fit my perspective of a sovereign God who controls everything. I’m amazed that he delights in that back and forth conversation, and he listens to me. Wow!

— “It is because we don’t pray that we really begin to doubt.” —Andy Cobb.

— God cares about the trivial. I really struggle when prayer meetings are all about health and travel issues. “Why can’t we spend more time on the important stuff such as people’s souls?” However, people prayed for traveling mercies for me this summer, and I ended up running over a big piece of semi tire and having an oil change problem, making me very grateful for the prayers and humbled that I need God for everything — even the small stuff.

Tabitha Driver is a Mennonite who loves glimpsing God’s goodness on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She blogs at Life is a Metaphor, where this post first appeared.

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