Aside from Scripture reading, prayer is one of the most fundamental spiritual disciplines. Without it, a true relationship with Christ is all but impossible, yet an active prayer life is something many Christians struggle with, myself included. What is it exactly that makes us struggle with something so simple? Is it the feeling that we have nothing to say, or no time with which to say it? Is it the feeling that it doesn't matter if we do or don't say anything? Is it a fear of doing it wrong? Each of these excuses are just that- excuses- and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can begin to tap into the abundant life God has for us.
If I could share five things I wish my girls knew about prayer, it would be these:
1) Prayer is nothing more than a conversation. We've all heard this before, but what does it tell us about how and when we pray? Think about your best friend and all the ways and reasons you talk to her. There are quick texts sent when you don't have a lot of time. There are gab sessions over coffee when you need to vent or get advice. There are late night, how-would-I-ever-survive-without-you, heart to hearts. And just as there are lots of ways to communicate with your best friend, there are lots of ways to communicate with your Savior. You don't always have to talk to Him on your knees at the altar, but you also can't maintain a relationship with one-liners. Balance is key.
2) There's no such thing as a bad prayer. I think this is where many of us get stuck because we listen to the "professionals" on Sunday and know that our eloquence will never measure up. One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone asks for a volunteer to pray out loud at a gathering, and after the prayer is said, someone says "Good job" or "That was great." This implies that there are less-than-great prayers and nothing scares us away from something more than a fear of failure.
3) God's big enough to handle your honesty. Sometimes we avoid praying because we think we've got to be in a good place spiritually- full of faith and joy and ready to praise. And while God enjoys our good moods, He can hang with the bad ones, too. If we're hurt, angry, confused, or worried, He already knows, which means we might as well talk to Him in the midst of our frustration. Any relationship worth having is grounded in honesty, so don't try to hide from Him when you're feeling less than your best. Lay it all out there and know He'll handle it with grace.
4) Prayer isn't a selfish act, but we gain more than we think when we do it. Praying to thank God for all He's given you? You'll start to notice how very blessed you are. Praying to praise God for who He is? He'll reveal even more of Himself to you. Praying to ask for help? You'll begin to see His hand in so many ways, regardless of how things turn out. Praying on someone else's behalf? You'll find it easier to trust them into His care, and strengthen the bond between you to boot. Prayer opens you up to the work of the Holy Spirit, and changes you from the inside out.
5) Just because you don't hear a response doesn't mean you haven't been heard. I'm pretty sure all bloggers everywhere have the same secret. We love getting comments on our posts. Even though we aren't doing this for fame, we do like knowing that people are reading our words. And when we write and write and write with nary a comment, it can get a little discouraging. Prayer can be the same way. If we feel as if we're doing nothing more than talking to the ceiling, it's easy to ask ourselves why we bother doing it in the first place. Paul, however, writes in Ephesians 3:12 that because of Jesus, we can approach God with confidence. We don't have to wonder if He hears, or cares, or even wants to listen. He wouldn't have given us His Son if His plan was to ignore us. He did it to make a relationship possible.
Prayer isn't something that's meant only for the spiritually mature. There's no right or wrong way to do it, and you don't have to get up before dawn. Just say what's on your heart, and watch how He responds. Come confidently, and know that He's waiting with open arms.