To be totally transparent, lately my “alone time” with God has been lacking. I used to beat myself up about it, but I don’t even have time to do that anymore now. Due to watching my kids while my wife is going to school AND traveling AND fixing our vehicles (its been two months of consistent breakdowns) AND staying up on ministry emails and messages AND actually finding time to spend time with my wife, my devotionals have been much less “devoted” and consistent than I want them to be.
Nonetheless, lately I have been learning about prayer. Hopefully this short insight into what I have been learning encourages you. That is why I am taking my precious time to write this (Christine just got home and took over watching the kids)....For you!
First off, I used to feel bad about not spending the alone time with God that I want/need to. Then I realized that God has set absolutely no expectations on me pertaining to spending time with Him. What that means is that He is not even a little disappointed in you when you haven’t been able to get your act together enough to get alone with Him. Everyone in the world has put some kind of expectation on you, but He refrains. He is so happy when you do seek Him in prayer, but He does not expect it or need it. He does not and will not punish you by withdrawing His heart and being distant like people do if you don’t spend enough time with Him. In fact, He wants every “should” to get filtered out of your heart. He wants every facet of the religious duty you feel to be shed from your heart and for desire and only desire to take over. Discipline that is formed out of desire rather than duty holds up much better anyways. He isn’t concerned, worried, or stressed over your lack of prayer, like you are. Isn’t that amazing?
Secondly, the Bible talks about how we should be praying continuously. How on earth does someone do that? I’ve allowed that passage to confuse me, drive me to performance, even condemn me. I’ve tried to do it literally, and either I am not spiritual enough and I am a total pansy (and I have done a 40 day fast with no food!), or what Paul is taking about looks like something else other than babbling in tongues for 24 hours a day....Even in your sleep.
So how do we achieve such a high, unattainable standard? I believe that the answer is that basically, prayer isn’t something that must contain words. It is a posture of the heart. It is a state where we dwell with God continuously. This reality that I am talking about can happen without us being aware of it. He dwells inside you, and regardless if you are aware of it or not, you are ALREADY continuously in prayer. Growing in prayer is simply our increase of awareness of what we are praying and how God is praying through us via the Holy Spirit. Let me give an example.
I was driving a few days ago, mulling over a few things in my head as I sped down the road. It wasn’t a healthy mental conversation. Let me be clear; I was not praying...at least not what you and I would consider to be “prayer”. I was not focused on God...I was focused on problems. And I was not talking to God. I was talking to myself. At one point, I said to myself, “I could totally quit doing ministry and go out and get a normal job. That is an option, but if I did that what would I be good at? I have thrown all my eggs in one basket. What am I good at?”
At that very moment, a truck swung over into my lane, not cutting me off, but demanding my immediate attention. I was drawn to its license plate, where the first three letters were “DRT”.
Anyone that is aware of what we do know that a big portion is Dead Raising Trainings= DRT. The very moment of weakness and defeat when I was wondering what I was good at, this license plate happens to present itself. God was clearly saying, “Don’t try to do something else. You are good at what you are doing. Just keep going, Son!”
I knew I wouldn’t believe it had actually happened, so I quickly took out my phone, followed the truck, and took a picture. That situation was very encouraging. But what caught my attention even more than the miraculous timing of it happening was the plain fact that I had not been “praying” when it happened. This leads me to something God has been talking to me about lately. God is so gracious that even our thoughts He interprets as prayer. He even hears the prayer you don’t pray. He knows what you need and what you want. You are praying all the time.
Third, He also remembers the prayers you have forgotten about. A month ago I was in Georgia doing a DRT. One morning, my friend Scott greeted me in the morning and told me he wanted to give me his beloved iPad. I refused. He told me that God told him to give it to me. I didn’t know why God had told him to do that, as I didn’t have any real use for an iPad.
A few days after he gave it to me I was telling my friend Gabe about it. He said, “Oh that is awesome! You totally wanted one. Glad you finally got one!” I said back, “I wanted one? When?” He said, “Yeah, about six months ago you told me you wanted an ipad.” I had totally forgot, but when he told me, I remembered. It was true; I had wanted an ipad! And now that I have one, I am not sure how I would go back to not having one. What is the point? The point is that God is so faithful that He remembers the prayers you prayed that you don’t even remember. Do you see how prayer is so much more broad and gracious than you secluding yourself in a prayer room? I love alone times with God, but how He approaches relationship with us is so....beautiful and flexible. So gracious.
Lastly, He likes it when we ask Him for stuff, but he likes it even more when we don't ask. Sounds odd right? Hear me out.
It is good to boldly make known to Him what we want and what we need, but it is even better just KNOW that Dad knows our desires and will fulfill them. Being a father myself, if there is one thing that drives me up the wall is being asked 1500 times in under one minute for something, all the while with steadily increasing volume. Often we act like this with God, as though He can’t hear us and we need to pray more and ask more and get louder and LOUDER until we get what we want. Today, my son asked me about a piece of fruit that I know he likes. He did not ask me for it, he simply asked if we have any left. I told him we have one piece left. He went quiet, knowing that I knew what he wanted. I respected that he didn’t ask me over and over but rather just waited so I grabbed the fruit, and handed it to him.
There is a peace in us not asking. There is a faith in quietness. There is a stability, a trust, and a certainty in NOT praying for something. When my children and wife look at something in a store with a sparkle in their eyes, I make a mental note of it and absolutely determine to get it for them. That very moment may not be the best time to get it for them, but rest assured, they will get it because I’m on their side. In fact, it is such a sure thing that they could basically assume it is theirs before we have paid for it. If they ask me for it that is fine, but it was on the “To Do” list long before they even thought to ask me for it. Thus, as odd as it sounds, there are situations where God likes not being asked. Sometimes silence speaks louder of faith than prayer does.
Be encouraged. God loves what you give him pertaining to prayer, even if it is the equivalent of two copper coins. There isn’t a certain amount He is hoping for and is letdown when you don’t accomplish it. Also, you are already praying continuously, you just need to adjust what you consider to be prayer. He even interprets random, complaining thoughts as a conversation with Him. He will also remember the prayers you gave up praying. You may have given up praying for something because you forgot, or maybe even because it became too hard to hope for those things anymore. He won’t forget. Lastly, remember that when your eye sparkles after something, He notices. You don’t have to tell Him that you want it over and over. Know that your Daddy owns it all, thus it is all yours anyways.