I'm sure I spoke to God at some point outside of those appointed times, however I likely didn't consider it prayer, because it was just talking.
When I was in my mid-twenties, and came to know the Lord, I had to forget everything I thought I knew about prayer. I learned that prayer is an open conversation with God. It's not a ritual. It isn't the formal recitation of word I previously thought. It is a way for me to speak to a friend, confess to a father, and worship my creator. It is also a way for me to listen to God, through the Holy Spirit.
When I first began developing some kind of prayer life, it was really uncomfortable. Did I talk out loud? Did I have to assign specific time as prayer time? Did I have to say certain words? Did I have to avoid certain words? Did I have to close my eyes? Look up to the sky? Fold my hands a certain way? Do the sign of the cross to start and finish the prayer? Say Amen when I was done?
God wants a relationship.
Everyday that I waited to understand prayer more was a day that I wasn't building a relationship with God. I signed on to this Christianity thing because a pastor told me it wasn't about following a list of rules, but rather a relationship between my creator and me. I said yes to the relationship.
Fortunately, I didn't wait for the rules of prayer. I began talking to God. It was weird at first. I had to picture him sitting in the passenger seat of my car. Sometimes I would talk out loud to him, and sometimes I would just talk to him in my head. Sometimes I would sit in silence with no clue what to say (that still happens). Since I communicate my thoughts better in writing, there are time I type out prayers.
Most importantly, I go to him, maybe not as often as I should, but I don't allow myself to get hung up on that because it will only stop me from going to him in the future.
He doesn't care about how often you pray.
I mean, yeah, he would love for you to talk to him all day long, but he's not going to be upset if you go a few days without checking in. He's going to be super excited whenever you do come to him. His arms are stretched wide open. He's got a big smile, hug, and an "I love you" every time you go to him.
Last Sunday, at Radius Church, Blake talked about prayer. He said, "In the moment I begin to pray, I step into the presence of God." Wow, think about it. You open your heart to God, and you are in the presence of God. Think about the power and potential in that. Every time you talk to him he's there. Every time you sit and silence and ask him to speak to you, he's there. Need proof God exists? Pray. Feeling disconnected from God? Pray. Having a bad day? Pray. Having a great day? Pray. Having a regular day? Pray.
As we navigate this thing called life, we need a guide. We can find that guide in prayer. I'm not going to make the God is the captain of our life analogy, but - well, I kind of just did. You get the idea. "Jesus, take the wheel" didn't become a cliche for no reason.
Through prayer, through the building a relationship with your creator, you will be changed. As you get to know God better, you will better understand his will for your life. He won't feel like some far off dictator trying to control your life, and start to feel more like what he is; a friend, a guide, a supporter, and a father - maybe more. The more you hangout with God, the more confident you will be in who he is.
So start your relationship with God. Let him know you are ready to get to know him better, and watch as he changes your life. We, however, were not left without some information from God and ways we can talk to him. Check out what Jesus taught us about prayer, and then ask Blake about what it means.
Luke 11:1-13 (NLT)
Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:
“Father, may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”
Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
“You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Join us next week, and learn more about how we can navigate through 2015. Blake will discuss fasting. It should be pretty enlightening.