Prayer is important, but what exactly is it, and how do we do it?
Every once in awhile, I meet someone whose life nearly takes my breath away with its beauty. My friend, Debra Fehsenfeld, is a passionate follower of Jesus, a wife and mother of four, a lover of all people, and a praying woman. (She’s cool, too!) I asked if she’d answer my questions about prayer, and here’s what she had to say:
If you had to describe prayer to a new Christian, what would you say about it?
It’s the gift we’ve been given to talk to God, to take action before God, and to participate with Him in all that He’s doing in the world.
- Talk to God: Just that . . . He’s listening . . . ask Him questions; tell Him what you’re thinking about; what you care about; wonder before Him about what He cares about, marvel at what you are seeing around you, both good & bad; there are no limits to what you may talk to Him about.
- Take action: We see things, hear things, wonder about things, believe things, understand things . . . but don’t always know what we are to do in response to all these things. Prayer is what we do.
- Participate with Him: Through interacting with God and seeking His Kingdom come in all that we see, hear, wonder, believe, understand, etc, we actually enter into the incredible privilege of working with God to make all that is wrong right (there is no boundary in our work of prayer, no geographical, racial, religious boundary to hinder us in this work)!
What motivates you to pray? Why do you pray?
Aside from the fact that I really do want to obey JESUS who has told us to pray (Lk 18:1, etc.), I think I’m motivated by two things: (1) an awareness of need & (2) my experience of the perfectly divine ways in which God does things–experience with the God who alone is the perfect head of wisdom, the perfect heart of love, & the possessor of perfect almighty hands. I pray because I have great needs, and so does the world around me; & I pray because I believe God intends to do something about those needs and I want to see Him do it, and be part of what He does.
When and where do you pray?
The greatest amount of concentrated time praying I do is in the mornings and afternoons while I’m running on the treadmill, and especially while I’m biking (recumbent). Both pieces of equipment are in our basement, and there is usually very little distraction.
I do pray at other times and in any number of places, but these would certainly be less intentional times of prayer though no less real or meaningful; they are usually responsive prayers–immediate responding to immediate circumstances or thoughts.
I’m assuming you didn’t always pray like you do now. What increased your commitment to–and hunger for–prayer?
Hands down . . . I started really praying intentionally when I began to realize that my children were going to need to make their own choices in life one day. I cannot make faith come alive in them; I’m completely dependent on the heart-changing, love-infusing power of God’s Spirit.
What do you think is the most important thing to understand about prayer?
It matters. People/situations are changed by prayer.
How much time do you spend talking to God; how much time do you spend listening?
I’m not trying to be modest nor am I trying to cover any lack; I simply don’t have an accurate guess right now. I would like to think that I am always attentive/listening, and I guess I’d also like to think that I’m ever ready in prayer, though I’m sure this is not accurate. This is, however, what I strive for.
Do you look forward to praying? If so, why?
I’m guessing you mean the longer, concentrated times of prayer. The answer to that is that I sometimes look forward to it. When I do, it’s because I know that God hears and will do something. When I don’t, it’s because I’m nearsighted—even blind—and have decided not to care!
Sometimes I start out praying in a spirit of this chosen nearsightedness, but the kind and gracious Spirit of our SAVIOR/DELIVERER comes and warms my cold heart, reminding me that I am not here to serve myself. Other times, I remain somewhat emotionless yet I pray on by faith believing God will not hold my emotions against me.
How do you hear and discern God’s voice?
If a person or situation comes to my mind, I assume it is a call to prayer/action.
What is the greatest thing you’ve ever asked God for?
Change in myself–impulses, genetic dispositions, desires, habits, priorities.
What is the greatest thing you’ve ever seen God do in response to your prayers?
There are so many “greatest things” I’ve seen God do in response to prayer that I’d need to write a book to tell them all! I can’t pick one or two because my gut cries out, “That’s not all! Injustice!”
He answers in ways that literally take my breath away . . . His gracious giving of power to do what feels impossible to do, the perfect timing in which He answers, and the way He answers–revealing complete knowledge and understanding beyond human wisdom or even comprehension.
What else should we know about prayer?
I believe that everything about prayer is personal; if it is impersonal, it is not prayer, it is babbling. I think that prayer is me—just as I am—going to God just as He is—in order to receive from Him.