Let’s build on two statements from last week’s posting.
Starting with the simple definition that says prayer is conversing with God, we remember that we have the privilege of that conversation because we are in a relationship with God the father through our faith in Jesus Christ.
As far as biblical terms go, words such as pray, worship, praise, ask, inquire, and plain old speak – when they are active verbs – express the concept of conversation with God from our side. When God such says things like “listen carefully” (Ezekiel 44:5), “hear my words” (Deuteronomy 4:10), “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18), we can understand it is God’s turn to lead the conversation. More generally, whenever we read anything from the Bible, we can be sure it is part of God’s conversation, both to those who originally heard the words and to us who came after its writing.
The thing that sets prayer apart from any other conversation in our lives is a simple fact that is between the God of the universe and we who are called by his name. From the beginning, it’s all about relationship.
I was recently reading the book Face to Face by Pastor Monte Kline. In this book, Klein calls Christians to spend more personal time with God. He often labels this as personal retreat, which can be anything from a few hours to days alone with God. He points to Moses’ 40 days with God in the clouds of Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:19) and Paul’s years in the Arabian desert (Galatians 1:17) as examples to note and follow (though not to those extremes) in finding our own times to be alone to talk to and hear from God.
In these examples, God seems to have used the person’s time alone to instruct, build, and prepare them for the next stage in their lives.
We know the Christian life is supposed to be one of spiritual growth. Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews refer to some Christians as being in the baby stage of growth. They don’t note this just in passing, but as an stage we should quickly grow out of. New Testament writers point this out in passages such as 2 Corinthians 10:15, Ephesians 4:15, and one of my favorites, 2 Peter 3:18, “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” And then there is a wonderful statement by Paul in second Corinthians 3:18. This one verse is so chock-full of meaning, but the overall sense is growth, when he wrote, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
I submit that one of the greatest outcomes of prayer is becoming increasingly more comfortable in the presence of God so that he can direct our lives and use them for his glory. The more we converse with God, the easier it is to continue speaking to him. That conversing can find us on our knees alone or one of several praying in a group. It might be speaking aloud with God or forming the words in our minds. It can be singing together with hundreds in a church sanctuary or singing Scripture choruses alone in our car. It can be asking him for something or thanking him for something. Although I highly doubt God needs a smart phone, we could probably talk to him through texts, where the acronym omg takes on a whole new significance.
And, before you know it, talking to God becomes second nature to us.
On the other side, God responds to very few people in the booming voice he must have used to Moses on Sinai, or even the still small voice which Elijah eventually heard in 1 Kings 19:12 (KJV). He most often seems to talk through his written word, in which case the more time we spend reading the Bible, the more familiar we are with what he wants us to know. He talks to us often through circumstance or the advice of believing friends. Again, the more often we recognize this, the easier it is to understand and apply it in our lives.
And, again, before you know it, we are able to discern more specific leading for our lives.
I once attended a communications seminar where the facilitator reminded us of a common proverb, practice makes perfect. "There is some truth to that,” she said, “but a more realistic way to look at it is practice makes permanent.” She explained the more we do something the more it becomes a standard part of our lives. Oh, were that so in our prayer lives as well!
Last week I left you with the thought that prayer is based on our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It doesn't stop there. Prayer helps us grow in that relationship so that we may become more like Christ and be more useful to the God who calls us.