Conversation with God
Do you ever wonder why your prayers seem lifeless—as if something were missing? Do you ever look back on your time with God and think, Communicating with the Creator of the universe should probably be more satisfying than this. Am I doing something wrong?
Prayer is one of the most awesome privileges that God has given us, but it doesn’t always feel that way. Although we have the opportunity to come boldly to the heavenly Father whenever we please, sometimes we may question whether our attempts to communicate with Him really matter. Sure, we’re quick to seek Him when suffering or trouble knocks at our door, but really, what else is prayer for?
The priority of prayer
Think about your closest friend. How did that friendship develop? Most likely, it required conversation and time spent together. Cultivating a vibrant relationship with the Lord is exactly the same, and prayer is the avenue of our communication with Him. Without it, God may seem like a stranger. He knows us inside and out, but unless we make prayer a priority in our lives, we won’t know Him. And to miss out on knowing the Lord intimately is a great tragedy.
The Christian life isn’t merely about how much you serve, how generously you give, or how faithfully you attend church. Rather, these things should result from a close relationship with God. And growing in oneness with Him requires that we set aside time to be alone with Him and experience His awesome presence. Intimacy will not happen any other way.
If you want to see a perfect example of this kind of close relationship, just look at Jesus. Even though He was the sinless Son of God—and Deity Himself—He made prayer a priority. Mark 1:29-39 gives us a vivid description of one day in His life. After teaching all morning in the synagogue, He went to Peter’s house and healed the disciple’s mother-in-law. Word of the miracle quickly spread, and when evening came, the whole city gathered at the door. Yet even after a busy night of casting out demons and healing the sick, Jesus got up early in the morning while it was still dark and went away to a secluded place to pray. Soon Peter and the others found Him, and another demanding day began.
Through prayers, God:
- Reveals himself (Ex. 33:13-23)
- Sustains through difficulties (Ps. 55:22)
- Strengthens in weariness (Isa. 40:28-31)
- Gives understanding (Jer. 33:3)
- Fills with courage (Ps. 138:2-3)
- Builds faith (Jude 1:20)
- Satisfies with joy (Ps. 63:1-8)
As we read through the Gospels, we see the pattern of that story repeated throughout Jesus’ time on earth. Luke 5:16 tells us He would “often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” In fact, on one occasion when He had a really big decision to make (choosing His disciples), “He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12-13). Time with His Father was not a matter of convenience but an absolute necessity that at times required sacrifice.
If Jesus considered communing with the Father so essential, shouldn’t we follow His example? We need to develop a practice of consistently spending extended time alone with God. And remember, prayer is a two-way conversation. So in order to hear His voice speaking to our hearts, we should include the Bible when we pray. Through God’s Word, the Holy Spirit guides us about what to ask, and He also illuminates passages so we get to know God’s character, ways, and promises. Then, as we open our hearts to receive His instruction, faith deepens and our lives come into alignment with His will.
Hindrances to prayer
In spite of all God’s promises and how much we need Him from moment to moment, we still have a tendency to let prayer become secondary in our lives. To help you evaluate and recognize what priority you are currently placing on prayer, answer this question: How much time did you spend with the Lord in the past week, just the two of you alone together (and I don’t mean in your car on the way to work)? Could you come up with even 5, 10, or 15 minutes? Perhaps it’s time for a little self-examination to determine whether anything is keeping you from giving prayer top priority in your life.
Busyness. For many Christians, a demanding schedule is probably the biggest obstacle to setting aside time for the Lord. Our fast-paced culture demands so much of us that we are in danger of pursuing urgent and immediate goals while missing the one thing that is the most essential to our spiritual health and, ultimately, our enduring success: intimacy with God. Have you allowed anything to become more important to you than your relationship with the Father? Take some time to consider the long-term ramifications of your pursuits. So much of what we do means nothing in eternity, but time spent with the Lord now always reaps eternal benefits.
Disinterest. We generally make time for what we want to do. As difficult as this truth may be, the reality is that sometimes we just aren’t interested in prayer. If God seems like a stranger, you may have no desire to interact with Him. The solution to this problem is to get to know Him. Since the Bible reveals who He is, that’s the place to start. As you read His Word, start a conversation by talking to the Lord and asking Him questions. Then listen for His quiet voice speaking to your heart. As you spend time with Him, your knowledge, trust, and love will grow until being with Him becomes a delight.
Disappointment. Sometimes we give up on prayer because it appears as if God isn’t answering our requests. Continuing to ask seems fruitless, so we stop. The problem here is two-fold. First, we have limited prayer to a “request and receive” transaction, instead of focusing on building a relationship with our loving heavenly Father. Second, we’ve made an assumption that if we don’t get what we asked, it was wasted time and effort. However, God is too wise and loving to fulfill every request. Like a caring parent, He sifts our petitions through His perfect will and gives us what is best, even if it causes disappointment or difficulty for the time being.
In spite of all God’s promises and how much we need him from moment to moment, we still have a tendency to let prayer become secondary in our lives.
Neglect. When life is running smoothly, blessings are flowing, and all seems well, we may be tempted to forget about the Lord. We may even start to think we can handle life on our own. Sadly, many Christians do this—they seek God only when they find themselves helpless in a difficult situation. But what was the Lord’s purpose for creating man? He wants us to experience deep fellowship and intimacy with Him. Although He may work through trials to get our attention and draw us closer to Himself, we should not neglect Him during seasons of blessing. James 1:17 tells us, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” Our good times should remind us of how fully and wonderfully He provides for us. We should take those opportunities to express our love and gratitude to Him.
One of the main problems with neglecting prayer is that our spiritual senses become dull. If that happens, we are in danger of failing to hear God when He speaks through His Word. Not only that, but we also lack discernment, because we cannot sense what He’s doing in our lives.
In contrast, regularly cultivating a rich relationship with the Lord brings great blessing. When trouble hits, you can discern His voice, understand His purposes, and trust Him. The advantages of nurturing a close relationship with God through prayer are endless and eternal. He has promised amazing spiritual riches to those who make time with Him a priority in their lives.
Commitment to a prayerful life
A young pastor once asked me, “If you could tell me only one thing, what would it be?” I told him that the most important part of his ministry was his time alone with the Lord. If he let that slip, everything else in his life would suffer. And I say the same thing to you: Maintaining an intimate relationship with God is crucial if you are to be effective and fruitful in your Christian life.
Most believers want to have a vibrant, meaningful experience with prayer. Our problem is generally not a lack of desire but of commitment. Like anything of true value, an intimate prayer relationship with God must be pursued. It won’t happen accidentally. Your schedule may need to be rearranged, but any sacrifices will be nothing compared to what you will gain. God takes great pleasure in meeting with you each day. Won’t you give Him this desire of His heart?
The article was selected from In Touch magazine.