"Now this is the confidence we have before Him: whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for." -1 John 5:14-15 (HCSB)
Today I started reading Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe by Sharon Jaynes. "Prayer" was the one word I picked to focus on this year, so when the opportunity arose to read this book, I couldn't pass it up. I've only read the first section of part one, but already I am encouraged by the book. It's also made me aware of my own ignorance about prayer. I've always felt that prayer was the most valuable and most neglected resource that we have as Christians, even though I don't yet understand why.
As I read through the pages of this new book, I couldn't help wondering what prayer actually is, and why it's so important. I used to teach Sunday school to a group of 6th grade girls, and I know I taught at least one lesson on prayer. We sat around the table together, and I remember feeling inadequate to teach that lesson because I struggled so much to comprehend it myself. I don't remember much about what was said, but I do remember saying something about how prayer was having a conversation with God. That's true, at least in a sense, but now I'm second-guessing myself. Yes, prayer is a conversation with God. But I can't help but think that "conversation" is not the best word for that. After all, we don't pray to our husbands or the people around us. We only ever pray to God, though we converse with all kinds of people. Surely then, prayer must be so much deeper than that. I can't help but think that prayer is more than just thanking God and asking Him for things.
The Word of God has so much to tell us about prayer. Jesus taught us a pattern in which to pray, Paul gave us things to pray about, and John said that God hears our prayers and will give us whatever we ask for in His name, according to His will. Scripture clearly illustrates how wonderful and essential prayer is. Prayer changes things. But with all that is said about prayer in the Bible, why does prayer seem so foreign and complicated to me? Why do I sit down to talk to God sometimes and struggle to find words? And if it's so crucial for me as a Christian, why is it so easy not to pray at all, or deceive myself into thinking I can get by just fine without it? These are questions I don't have answers for right now, but I am searching.
Something else I wonder is why does prayer work? I know it does. Scripture records countless instances of prayers being answered (sometimes before the prayer is finished), and my own experience has shown me the power of prayer. What's actually taking place when I pray, and why does something happen as a result? I don't always get the answer I'm hoping for, but I always get an answer. Thinking about this made me look back at the many prayers God has answered, and I had a thought. My most memorable and powerful experiences with prayer came not when I got something that I wanted, but when my heart leaned in to God. There were moments that I had no control over my circumstances, and when I let go and trusted God to move in His timing and His way, I experienced His power and love like never before.
What if prayer has more to do with my heart than my words? What if sometimes the answer to my prayer isn't that my situation changes, but that I do? There's something about coming before God and acknowledging that He's the one in charge and reminding myself of how desperately I need Him every nanosecond of every day. So many times, I hear stories of wives praying for the salvation of their lost husbands and God answering their prayers. I think I tend to assume the wife's prayer is what God used to change her husband's heart. What if God used the wife's prayer to change her own heart, and the husband witnessed the love of Christ in her as a result? What if the wife's act of leaning into God was the vehicle by which God drew the husband to Him? Is prayer more about God doing something in us and to us than about doing something for us?
Words seem to fall short as I try and express my deep and gnawing hunger to better understand prayer. I know this post is a disorganized mess, but sometimes I just have to write what I'm thinking as I think it. How can something be both simple and complicated? The glories of God truly are unfathomable and magnificent. As I walk through life hoping to find answers to these and many other questions, I hope you'll walk with me and share what you learn along the way!
What Do You Think?
- What is prayer for, and why is it important?
- What does your prayer time look like?
- Do you have any thoughts or questions about prayer? Please share them below!