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The men’s ministry in our church recently held a daylong event, and I had the privilege of being part of the prayer team. As the guys gathered in the gym surrounded by camo-netting, motorcycles and 4x4 ATV’s,  I was welcomed into the church's prayer chapel by the presence of God’s Spirit. I expected to fight with my roaming mind to stay focused on the prayer-task at hand. I expected to consciously have to still my mind, and wait for my emotional wheels to coast to a halt before I would really enter into God’s presence.

Instead God’s Spirit met me at the door, and for the first hour, I was overwhelmed by a single idea. I sensed God ready to meet with me, not standing off in the distance waiting for me to fight my way into his presence. While I didn’t hear an audible voice, I overwhelmingly sensed God say:

 “You are here to ask me to do things for you, but you don’t have to ask. You don’t even have the right to ask for anything of your own accord. I want your prayers on the basis of my promises to you. I want to answer your prayers, and I offer you my grace, power and presence on the basis of my Unchanging Word.”

As I’m writing this, I’m having a hard time describing how this single idea transformed my prayer expectations. I often spend time in extended prayer. I have my prayer lists, and I pray for my kids, my church, my finances, family and country. I ask God to glorify himself, reveal himself, and cover those who spend their lives in service of the ministry. I have my shopping list that I lug into my prayer closet, but so often I feel like I have to walk up hill before I can talk to God. I have to clear away the brush in my mind to find a peaceful place in the middle of my mental forests before I pray. For those of you in an intercessory ministry, I trust you understand the struggle my inadequate words are trying to frame

Prayer is hard work, and if we don’t pray, there are events in the kingdom that will likely never happen, miracles left undone, souls left unchanged. I do, and God will; if I don’t, God won’t. It’s hard to dance with this humble task without becoming arrogant in the execution.

Yet that day, God reminded me that I am in a covenant with him, and He wants me to pray. God wants and waits for me to enter into his presence. I don’t have to come up with the perfect formula of words before God hears me. He has promised to hear me . . . hear us, and we get to stand before him on the basis of his unchanging commitment to us, our Father, Redeemer, Savior and Friend.

Years ago, a musician named Scott Wesley Brown told this story. Sitting in a prayer meeting, he waited his turn while trying to find the perfect words to impress God and the people around him. He didn’t feel the pride in his heart until a young girl spoke up and said slowly:

“Dear God, A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z.   
Father, I don’t know what to say, so here are all the letters I know.
You put them together in the right order. Amen”

Irritated at first, Brown was humbled by the time the girl finished. He wanted to get it right, to impress and declare. The girl just wanted to pray.

When I go into prayer, do I remember that prayer is a conversation? I hear it all the time, but too often I act as if it’s all up to me. Why aren’t more people coming to the prayer meetings? Didn’t Jesus call all of us to pray? Why are there so few people in the prayer room this morning? It’s so easy to be quietly proud in my prayer closet. That morning in the prayer chapel, God illuminated my pride from his perspective.

I pray because he asks me to come. I can expect an audience because he promised to answer. I am welcomed because of what Jesus sacrificed for me. I can love, because I was first loved. If there’s anything I have to get right in my prayers, it’s humility, and the conviction that God will keep his promises when I ask. Now I can ask in faith.

 

 

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