When I was in college, a couple families from my church would make dinner for our college ministry’s perpetually hungry group of students. Every Monday night we would get together, pray, eat, worship and hang out afterward. A newer friend to our group, Dustin, was asked to say the blessing for the food. He didn’t have a lot of experience at church or with praying, but he was up for giving it a shot. Everyone gathered around and bowed their heads and waited for Dustin to pray.
After a thoughtful pause, he said confidently, “Hey God! How’s it going? I hope your day is going great. Thanks a lot for the people that made all this food—the burgers smell really good and..uh..we are looking forward to eating them. Ok, that’s it.”
A smile spread around the room as we were reminded of a very important fact: prayer is an honest conversation with God. What my friend lacked in elegant, churchy verbiage, he more than made up with sincerity and a willing heart.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that God just wants us to talk to Him. Dustin’s prayer, reminds me of a quote by Dallas Willard who said, “Living prayer is simply talking to God about what we are doing together.”
God is already by our side every moment, working in the world around us, and giving us a chance to join Him. What if we talked with God each day about what we’ll do together and where we’ll go together? What eternal perspective might be granted to the things we do both great and small, if we acknowledged our Heavenly Father walking beside us?
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
God literally invites you to talk to Him about all the things. Whether you’re sick or in trouble, or happy and content, God wants to hear from you.
God wants to be a part of your life, to be there for you and support and encourage you. He is there to cheer with you when you get that promotion you’ve been working toward, or when your little one takes their first steps. He sees your joy and delights in it.
When you grieve, God wants to holds you close. When you cry, He’s right there waiting to comfort you and give you strength. He wants to hear from you when you feel lost or confused, when you don’t understand where He is working or what you’re supposed to do next. God is big enough to handle our real human emotions. He is secure enough to field our questions, doubts and even our anger. It’s ok to tell Him about it.
If you are sick, God doesn’t want you to suffer alone. You are not an inconvenience. He wants you to reach out to Him and to the church to anoint you with oil and pray with you. He works through His people to encourage you and help you get the resources and care that you need to be well.
Even when we are sinning, God wants to be in conversation together. God never moves away or abandons us when we mess up, but often our instinct is to run and hide. We withdraw in shame or sometimes even in defiance. The first step to restoration is a conversation with God. Our Heavenly Father knows and understands that avoiding temptation and sin is difficult. He sent Jesus to redeem us and the Holy Spirit to help us, knowing that we are not strong enough on our own.
Talking to God even when we are messing up, counteracts our human tendency to withdraw. It keeps us close to our Savior and our source of strength, so that we can live differently–to live holy. Prayer can give us the courage to reach out to a trusted friend to confess our sin, seek support and find accountability. It is safe to talk to God about sin. He even says that we will be forgiven. It is in honest relationship with our Heavenly Father and our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ that we are changed and set free from sin.
Prayer is powerful and transformative. Prayer changes our hearts and shapes us to be more like God. You and your closest friend likely have similar wardrobes or mannerisms. It’s human nature to become a little more like the people we spend time with. In spending time with God in the conversation of prayer, we start to take on more of His characteristics and perspective. We more easily recognize His voice and begin to anticipate, by the power of the Holy Spirit, where He is leading us.
Even Jesus, who was perfect, valued and needed prayer. Luke 5:15-17 tells us that when Jesus was doing ministry “…the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
Jesus knew that to effectively complete His mission here on earth, He had to stay connected to the Father. He talked with God about what they were doing together and poured out His heart to Him.
Jesus not only prayed for His own benefit, but for the benefit of those watching. He modeled a healthy relationship with God so that we too could learn and implement prayer in our lives. What is amazing, is that through Jesus, we have the same access to talk to God that He did. When you are up at 2:00 in the morning with a fussy little one, God is there and ready to hear you. When you are driving home from work and feeling anxious about balancing family time with work obligations, God wants you to share it with Him. We can have a continuous conversation with God at any time and in any place. What an awe-inspiring thing to be able to share our hearts and thoughts with the very God who created us.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Praying continually” doesn’t mean you have to go to church in the morning and stay there praying on your knees all day long. It simply means to keep the conversation going. Check in with God, give Him your status update before you post it on social media.
Prayer is an impactful and a powerful part of our lives as Christians. It is necessary for building a relationship with God that continually transforms us to be more like Him.
Anyone can do it and it doesn’t have to sound fancy to please God. He simply wants to hear your heart, and to be your steadfast source of love and comfort, wisdom and peace. You don’t have to look far to find Him. He is there already, walking right beside you, ready to listen to His beloved daughter.