Impacting Cities & Communities thru Prayer
A Community of Prayer Champions, Praying Churches, Prayed-for Communities
Some people seem surprised when I tell them that I did not come out of the chute praying. But it’s true. I do not have a spiritual gift for prayer and intercession. I’m just a very ordinary Christian who has a desperate need for genuine, personal relationship with God—a longing that has continued to propel me along in my journey in prayer. Much of what I write, teach, and speak about comes from my experiences along the way in getting to know God through prayer.
What follows is an excerpt from my new Bible study, Prayer Begins with Relationship that released this month. In it, I share a bit about how I have learned—and continue to learn—to practice the presence of God by talking to Him throughout the day in all the details, big and small.
For many years, I prayed primarily at set times: morning quiet time, before meals, with my husband before bed, and with fellow church members at services and functions. I did not often talk to God spontaneously, and I did not include Him in much of my ordinary life. Sure, I remembered to bring the “big things” to Him, but the little, daily stuff? I pretty much handled it on my own. It never occurred to me I could talk to God about it.
Since coming to understand some of the concepts I’ve shared in [the lessons in Prayer Begins with Relationship], my prayer life—and consequently my everyday relationship with God—has become more vibrant, exciting, and satisfying. Here are just a few examples:
• Knowing God wants a reciprocating friendship with me encourages me to take all kinds of things to Him and depend on Him for support. For instance, yesterday I had to make a phone call to someone who is going through a hard time and who is bristly as a result. Before I picked up the phone, I asked God for His input. I sensed Him steering me toward a specific focus and away from things I might ordinarily say. The phone call went unusually well—and knowing He was present with me as I made the call comforted me too.
• Because I know God wants to engage me in two-way dialogue, I’m learning to pay attention to the thoughts that cross my mind so I don’t miss conversations He wants to initiate. Just this morning while I was brushing my teeth before heading to a ministry-team meeting, the names of three people on the team popped into my head. In the past I would have dismissed it as a random, irrelevant thought. But now I asked Him if there was anything He wanted me to know about these people. As we interacted, I heard more details about a specific need they had. So I asked God for confirmation: “If this is really You, would You please bring up the need at our meeting?” He did—through another person. So I knew I was supposed to share and follow through on what He’d said to me earlier. It was exciting to be included in His plan for caring for the folks whose names He brought to mind. I love having Him talk to me!
For most people, connecting with God in dynamic, relational conversation is a process—usually a life-long journey. Don’t expect to jump from brief prayers of intercession to constant conversation with God (I’m certainly not there!). You will most likely experience a gradual deepening of your relationship as new discoveries and joys are added slowly but surely along the way. To get you started, read the ideas below and select one or two you would like to incorporate into your daily life.
____ As you begin your day, talk to God about what you think it will hold. What do you look forward to? What do you think will be hard or uncomfortable? Where do you especially need His help or encouragement? Ask Him to remind you to check in with Him as each of these things comes up during the day—and during the unanticipated events as well.
____ When you read your Bible, expect God to speak to you personally. Listen for His words of personalized encouragement and affirmation, or for fresh discoveries of what He is like and how He wants to relate to you.
____ Picture Jesus with you at your job, home, or wherever you spend most of your day. Think about how close He is and how He wants to help, guide, and encourage you—and just be near you because He loves you.
____ Ask God for help at the beginning of projects and undertakings throughout the day, whether large or small.
____ Talk to God while you’re driving or walking. Tell Him what you see; include Him in what you are thinking about.
____ Pay attention to the “random” thoughts that pass through your mind. The song, person, idea, word, Scripture verse, affirmation, or warning that comes to you may be God speaking to you and inviting your response.
____ When you are praying for someone or something, be sure to interrupt yourself and ask God what He’d like for that person or situation.
____ If you mess up, tell Jesus about it right away. Know that He understands and forgives you. Picture Him looking into your eyes with love, forgiveness, and acceptance.
____ When you see something beautiful or experience something that gives you joy, express your delight to Him.
____ Brainstorm with God. When you need wise and creative ideas, tell Him your question or challenge, then take a sheet of paper and write down what comes to mind.
____ Ask God to help you become more aware of your emotions. When you are feeling anxious, fearful, distressed, confused, embarrassed, upset, lonely (or experience some other uncomfortable feeling), share your heart with Him and ask Him to tangibly meet and care for you.
____ When you are with other people, consciously remember that God is there too. As you interact with others, also listen to God and invite Him to help you know what to do and say.
____ Before bed, review your day with God. Tell Him what was enjoyable and satisfying, as well as what was hard or discouraging. Consider how He might respond to what you share.
At the end of each day, reflect on where you and God kept company that day. You may want to write these in a journal so you can watch how your relationship deepens and develops in the days and weeks to come. Talk to God about what you did together that day and express your desires for the way you’ll practice His presence tomorrow.
Finally, celebrate each deepening of your connection with God, knowing that He is celebrating too!