If you’re a product of the 80’s like me then you arguably have Bon Jovi’s greatest hit in your head and it will be stuck there for the rest of the day. It’s a great song. The premise for it however is interesting because so many people talk about praying. But as a Christian it took me a long time to refine this discipline into a real, personal and worshipful practice in my daily walk with the Lord.
As my friendships grow and I meet new people, my prayer list gets longer and longer. And the more people I meet and they hear my story…or rather God’s story in me…the more people say they will be praying for me. For this I am truly grateful because I really believe one of the greatest things we can do for each other is pray. I love to see how God works in such amazing ways and it is such a blessing to see how God answers! In reality, I think I could literally pray without ceasing, constantly, and still have more things to pray about and still want to do it more. It makes Livin’ on a Prayer an understatement.
I remember once in high school our youth pastor was talking about lifting one another up in prayer. He said “If you tell someone you’re going to pray for them, you better do it. There is nothing worse than telling someone you will pray for them and then you forget to.” I was shocked. Why would someone tell another that they would pray for them and then forget to…that’s terrible! Are you telling me that not everyone who says they will do something follows through? Yes, I was a little bit naive. You mean…they intend to…they are going to…they should have…they really did think of the person…they’re just too busy…life happnes…it slipped their mind…they forgot to write it down…they ran out of time? We have the God of the universe waiting and wanting to hear from us with our every little care and we don’t take advantage of it? What’s that about?
A few years ago I got an email…one of those “chain” types that stated that many people claim to pray but few people actually do. The sender pinpointed me as someone who actually does and I was supposed to send it to 8 people and pray this specific prayer for each of them. It has stuck with me because if the general consensus is that few people pray…is it true?
What if I woke up today and God was only who I praised Him for being yesterday? What if I woke up today and was only forgiven for the sins I remembered to confess…not the ones that slipped my mind…or the ones I didn’t even realize I committed? What if today I woke up and only possessed the things I earnestly thanked Him for yesterday? What if I woke up today and that prayer request I forgot to pray for yesterday had eternal consequences and I was the one who needed to answer for it? It really puts into perspective who God really is and His overwhelming grace in our lives. How I blindly and selfishly stumble through life forgetting so much more than I remember.
What I have found is that sincere prayer cannot be a monotonous, memorized verse. What would it be like if my husband came home everyday and I had the same rehearsed lines day in and day out… “Hi, honey, I love you! I hope you had a good day. Mine was great. Thanks for working so hard for us. The house is clean, the laundry is done, the kids are bathed and in their p.j’s. Dinner is on the table. Could you make sure you take out the trash and fix that light bulb I’ve been bugging you about for over a month? Yeah and the toilet is still running, I have no idea why. Oh and the yard needs to be mowed. Don’t forget to string trim! I also terribly need an oil change…seriously…get me in…I’m your wife for pete’s sake! Now let’s eat so we can get these kids in bed so I can take a shower and go to sleep! I cooked so you clean up. (Yawn) See you in the morning!” I mean really…while in actuality it would be really nice to be able to go to sleep at 6:30 some nights what would that mean for our relationship? There wouldn’t be one! He wouldn’t get a word in edgewise and I would just be firing away with my agenda and then falling fast asleep. I don’t think he would put up with that for too long. Unfortunately, my prayer life was like that for a long time. For someone who grew up in a Christian home, asked Jesus to be my Savior at the age of 7 and went to church my entire life, I really didn’t know how to pray. I had a short memorized statement of thankfulness with a laundry list of requests that I usually…most of the time…sometimes…in reality barely got through before I passed out in exhaustion. So what’s worse…praying while not fully engaged or not praying at all?
So what does it mean to really pray? I mean not just say I’m going to do it…not plan to do it…not forget to do it…not fall asleep doing it…but actually DO IT! For me it has to be intentional, organized, at a time when I am undistracted, alone, quiet, and allowing the Lord to speak to me everyday. But it also means that I can come to Him at the drop of a hat at any given second, anytime, anywhere and place an immediate need at His feet. It’s a constant dependence that I don’t even fully understand but I know He hears me because He answers and sometimes I don’t even realize it. It’s concerning things big and small. It takes effort at first, and then it becomes like second nature. Then again, there are always new and different ways to pray and things to pray for. It’s like how you were so in love with your spouse when you married them…but then know and love them more and more everyday when you didn’t even think it was possible. So is our journey with Christ when we abide in Him through prayer.
I have become so passionate about prayer because I really do rely on it to live. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I cannot bear the burdens of this life on my own because when I do, I crumble in one way, shape or form and I’ve only just begun. God has shown me His faithfulness time and time again through this incredible gift. He reminds me of who His is, convicts me of the things I need to confess, reminds me of what I am so deeply thankful for, and takes away my cares because all of them belong to Him. It’s so much more than a great 80’s song. It’s so much more than a flippant, insincere, typical response to someone’s hurt or need. It’s so much more than a mere half-hearted effort to make life easier for myself. It’s so much more than what our society view as a last resort to the problems of life when in dire straights. It’s how to love those around me, to know God more through praising Him, to have Him graciously cleanse my heart, to rely on the Him for all of my needs, and the way to fully live in a personal relationship with the Lord…which takes 2 people…not just 1.