Prayer: Rules or Relationship
Prayer…a topic that can send any decent Christian into a mild panic or worse yet a marginal guilt trip. Why is it we always feel like our prayer lives just don’t measure up to whatever standard we imagine others are achieving? You’re already feeling tense I can tell…So let’s chat about this seemingly scary topic and see if we can’t bring a little clarity!
I’ve been a believer for over 40 years and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of and followed about that many different Prayer Plans someone more brilliant than me has come up with. In the 80’s someone came to our little church and taught a plan that covered a different topic every 15 minutes. The 90’s ushered in the famous “could you not tarry one hour” plan that everyone attempted. The 2000’s brought us militant intercession and warfare praying…with my personality I nailed that joker!!
Since there are as many types of prayer as there are people obviously there is no real wrong way to pray. You can try all of the different approaches and you may find something that totally works for you. Awesome!! While any and all of the different ways are good in their own right, what matters is simply praying.
When we come to Christ out of a life we lived doing it our own way, we need to change a lot of bad habits and develop new ones. So setting a prescribed bible reading plan and set time of prayer is a good thing. It takes 30 days to make or break a habit. But if every time I get with Jesus I have a list and precede to check off the things I need from Him our relationship becomes little more than a business transaction.
But once you have really understood the real need for reading God’s word and praying and make it a habit to do daily, you can then begin to trust that you can hear from the Holy Spirit as to how He wants to lead you in prayer and bible study.
Try several different approaches until you feel one working for you, but be open to His leading to change it up when He nudges you. Our prayer/personal time with God looks different to everyone because our relationship with Jesus is personal and unique. Don’t put rules on time with God when He just wants YOU…
God is not a perfectionist waiting for you to “do it wrong” so He can correct you. Lord He just wants you to talk to Him! I know for myself at different times in my journey I’ve prayed using different methods. I’m more of a believer in following your own heart and convictions than a set rule. So having said that I’d like to share what I feel the Lord has been speaking to me recently about prayer…intimacy.
I’ve been reading the bible through at my own pace recently and began to feel like I was just checking something off my to do list, which as a Melancholy I seriously love a list! So I felt like I should just “be” with God. I felt Him drawing me. Part of our relationship with God is intimacy, not just prayer requests and intercession, but simply opening up to Him in deep ways exposing our heart. Here are a few ways I do this.
1. I play some worship music. As I listen I begin to pray the lyrics to God worshipping Him as I do.
2. I may then read a Psalm or another scripture over and over thinking about what it says. I ask the Holy Spirit to show me what He might be saying in that. I look up the definitions of some of the words in the scripture to better define it’s meaning.
3. Then I journal it and write my prayers concerning what I’ve discovered in my study of that scripture. I worship God around any attribute of Him I have discovered in my study.
4. I spend some time praying in the Spirit for a bit and wait in His presence.
5. I begin to open my heart up to Jesus, telling Him my deepest desires or feelings or concerns. This is intimacy, a quiet time alone with my Father. I’m not asking for things or pleading for something, I’m loving on Him and letting Him love me.
6. Then I conclude with waiting and listening for Him to speak to me. Prayer is after all a conversation not a monologue.
We not only have a set apart intimate time with God but we pray throughout the day as situations come up. Stop say a prayer and keep going about your day. Just like in any marriage relationship there is the everyday mundane stuff we chat about but then there are those intimate times when we need to get behind closed doors and bare it all. Intimacy is scary and wonderful. Being intimate with someone in that way is a deeply moving experience. You can’t hide things in that setting! God wants intimate relationship with us. He knows us and wants us to know Him in that way. He has things He wants to show us we won’t see unless we get that close to Him.
Learning to "be" with the Lord takes time, it feels awkward at first until you "connect" with His spirit. It will come, don't give up. This isn't a test that is graded. God is happy that you even want to spend time with Him. Relationships grow over time so keep going, keep learning and keep praying.