Friends, can we talk about prayer here for a minute (or more than one minute because, who am I kidding, my blog
posts mini books take much more than one minute to read)? Prayer has been a struggle for me throughout my entire journey as a Christian. Feeling like I don't pray enough, I'm not prayer "focused" enough throughout my day, feeling guilty I wasn't praying more for others instead of myself, telling others I would be praying for them and then forgetting to actually do it, not praying for my husband like "The Praying Wife" book told me I should be, and even looking up to those I labeled "prayer warriors" and thinking I would never be like them because, for whatever reason, I just couldn't grasp how to pray the right amount of times in the right way with the right attitude.
Sure, despite all of the above, I still prayed. I mean, I'm a Christian, right. Prayer is what we are supposed to do. I prayed at meal times, during the church service, with our children before bed and occasionally at night in bed with my hubby. I even took times to journal out more detailed prayers when I was facing big decisions, hard situations, or joyful experiences I wanted to remember, but even those prayers didn't help me feel like I was "a praying woman". Prayer, as I knew it, was supposed to be a time of talking with God, but in my times of prayer, I still felt distant from Him...like I couldn't fully trust Him so I prayed what I felt I was supposed to pray instead of what I really wanted to say to Him.
Within the last several years, however, God has had me on a journey of discovering some Truths about Him I was failing to believe. Truths such as the fact He is good 100% of the time. (Hard to believe when you've experienced situations where you are at a loss on how a "good" God could allow tragedy to happen.) That He loves me fiercely. (Hard to believe when you have experienced rejection.) That He desires His children to have an abundant life. (Hard to believe when life doesn't always feel "abundant".) That He is always in the business of answering our prayers. (Hard to believe when you pray for something and it never happens.) See the pattern here? I was refusing to accept Truth out of some very real hurts in my life experience. I was making God to be who I wanted Him to be instead of seeing Him for who He was, is, and always will be despite my own opinions. I was not believing Truth and it was time to stop.
The more I allowed myself to claim the Truths about God to actually BE Truth, the more I found myself desiring to be near Him. The True God was much more attractive to me than the one I had made up in my own head. I began believing, despite my situations, that He IS good. Truth. I began believing He DOES love me fiercely. Truth. I began believing He does desire His children to have an ABUNDANT life. Truth. That He is ALWAYS in the business of showing up when we pray. Truth. Basically, I began believing that God desired relationship with me and the way to build that relationship was through open, honest communication. No more praying the way I thought I was "supposed" to. No more feeling guilty that my prayer wasn't long enough, good enough, on my knees, or for myself. I just prayed/talked with a God I now trusted to be who He had always said He was. I allowed the God who loved me to actually love me. And, friends, that's when life began to change. There is nothing so profound as living a life as a person who believes in the Truths of God and trusts Him faithfully...it literally draws you into communion with Him. It draws out a passion and desire to be a person who prays.
You see, it's not about me. Prayer is not just about me. That's too one-sided. If prayer was all about me, that would not even be prayer...that would be self-reliance. Prayer is about me AND the God who created me, loves me, desires to be with me, is genuinely interested in what I'm interested in, and aches over what I ache over. Prayer is about communion with that God. Relationship with Him. Conversation with Him that allows Him to know me better and me to know Him better. Prayer is intimacy with God. An intimacy that drops down the walls of keeping another outside of your "safe zone" and allows them to stir up passions and pains you never even knew you had within you. It is sharing the depths and nakedness of your heart and soul to the very One who created it, knows it best, and can affirm or convict it in the purest and holy way possible. It is intense and life-giving at its core.
Currently, I do consider myself a "prayer warrior", but not because I'm praying all day long with bruised knees from being on them so much or because I think God listens to my prayers now any better than what He used to, but because I believe that anyone who is praying is a warrior. There is a battle going on daily all around us and even within us. It's a battle for the Truth of God to be believed or for the Lies of Satan to be believed. It's a battle for the Goodness and Love of God to be shown and experienced by others or the Condemnation and Discouragement of Satan to be taken as truth. When we spend time in prayer--in conversation--with God, we take our place on the battlefield as a warrior fighting on His side. Even in times when our prayers are questioning God because we just don't understand what He is doing, or yelling at God because we are so hurt we don't know how to make another move, we are still SIDING with God by inviting Him into our intimate place of vulnerability. We are trusting that He is going to meet us there to because that's what soldiers on the battlefield together would do. No matter what my prayer is or when I'm praying it, I am a warrior for His Truth to prevail against anything attempting to take its rightful place in my life, in my heart, in my thoughts.
Because of this new-found desire to actually believe God is who He says He is and to trust Him enough to have intimate talks with him (prayer), I have also had the extreme privilege of having my eyes open to the work He is doing around me I never noticed or acknowledged before. It is a humbling place to realize you really have nothing to give God, but if you simply give Him yourself as a willing and empty vessel, He wows you with His wonders in your own life and in the lives of those around you. Friends, God is a powerful God. Can I say that again? God is a POWER-FULL God! When I pray, I get to tap into that power. That's when I have eyes to watch His power working all around me. It's not my own power, it's not my own abilities...it's simply God revealing Himself in a fresh and new way I never allowed myself to see before because I was too scared to open myself up to Him like that. When I believe Him faithfully and trustfully, I am empowered to see His hand touching the world around me in such amazing ways. I simply get to take it all in...like the front row ticket holder to God's show.
Specifically lately I have been encouraged and challenged to see God's power through prayer in three ways. First of all, belief in the supernatural, or what I'm going to call "Godnatural" occurrences. Second, in my ability to see visions that speak directly into situations around me. Lastly, the unity of people who come together in more corporate times of prayer. Let me just touch on all three here.
Godnatural occurrences. This past fall I was gathered with a few others from my church at our typical Wednesday night prayer time. One of the women came in and began sharing with the group that in a completely random and quite interesting way, a carpet cleaner at her personal home that afternoon asked if he could pray for her foot. He didn't know why, but just felt like God's Spirit was asking him to do that. She told him he was certainly welcome to do that because she had always had some issues with her legs/hips. The carpet cleaner got down and prayed over her foot and she literally watched her leg grow in front of her eyes. Because of that small growth, she began walking around her room and did not have her familiar pain anymore. What?!?!?!?! Her leg grew? Through the prayers of a man who originally came to clean her carpets? What? If that is your reaction, let me assure you that was mine too. She shared this Godnatural occurrence as if it was as common to her day as picking up the daily newspaper. We sat there in amazement that God had just grown her leg and praised Him together. I piped up to the group, jokingly, and said, "I guess I should have him come clean my carpets cause my hips are always out of line too!" We all kinda chuckled and went on with the rest of our prayer meeting. As amazing as that event of the day was, I had no idea just how much it would impact my own life.
The meeting was done, I was getting my coat on, and low and behold one of the elderly women of our church who I have GREAT respect for came over to me and asked if I wouldn't mind sitting down on a chair. I said "Sure!" thinking she would want to talk. She looked at me and said, "Can I pray for you? I haven't been able to shake what you said earlier about your hips and God keeps telling me I need to pray over you, but I've been fighting it. I finally told Him that if you took a while to get your things gathered then I would do it. Well, you took a while so now I'm doing it." I thought, well, what the heck...might as well let her, you never know what could happen, but I highly doubt anything like what happened to the other woman was going to happen to me. So, with that, she asked me to put my legs out straight in front of me and she noticed that one leg was just a tiny bit shorter than the other one. I confirmed that yes, a chiropractor had told me that several years ago and told me to just wear a 1/4 inch lift under that foot and that would help my hips stay in line, but I had stopped doing that a ways back and was just trying to get chiropractic care to help with the pain. She, in all her self-achy-jointed beauty, lowered herself down to my feet, grabbed my ankles, and prayed silently. To this day I do not know exactly what she prayed in that moment, but I kid you not, my entire leg started to get warm and tingly and before our very eyes it grew out about a 1/4 of an inch. All I could say was "I felt that!" with eyes wide open. She looked up at me with a smile on her face and winked at me. "Praise God!" she said towards the ceiling while we helped each other to our feet. Praise God indeed!
I want to say I couldn't believe that happened, but the best part of it for me was the fact I COULD believe it happened! I had just spent a few hours in the presence of the Lord in prayer and I had come away from that time 100% sure that God was able to do anything. I had complete confidence and peace that God had just done something completely "abnormal" in my body and made it seem completely normal to me. I wasn't wigged out really or even shocked--I was joyful and thankful and humbled. Of course God just grew my leg! Why would I even doubt He could do that/would do that??? It is in His very nature to do what He had just done. Why would I doubt that? This elderly sister and I walked out of our church that day both touched by a powerful God. She with the faith-building experience that if God lays it on her heart to pray for something, He will show up for it and I with my legs now the same length feeling oddly taller than I had ever felt in my life and walking straight for the first time I could remember. My first ever run-in with a supernatural or Godnatural occurrence like that and it was to my very own body. Yes, friends, God still does have the power to do the miraculous. And just for the icing on the cake...ever since then I have had virtually no back/hip pain, I certainly don't need a lift in my shoe, and I am a stronger believer in the fact that God can go beyond what our human minds can even comprehend.
Seeing visions. It seems as if God enjoys giving me visions during prayer that connect with something going on around me. Some I understand and some I do not. Seeing visions does not surprise me since I know I'm a visual learner in the first place. He has brought to mind such images of rotting tomatoes, broken glass, petal-picked flowers, and many more to bring to life what He is asking me to be praying over. They each have significant meaning that go beyond the images themselves. They are illustrations brought to my mind while in prayer for things of deeper meaning. The broken glass, for example, was in the parking lot of our church and there was a little girl very close to it. I was running over to try to keep her away from it and began the tedious task of picking up each shard so no one would get cut/hurt by it. I found this vision coming to my mind as a group of us were praying specifically for our church. I felt as if God was saying if we are asking others to come to our church and yet are still living lives like broken glass that can cut and hurt others, we first need to focus on cleaning ourselves up before inviting others in. It was simple yet profound. All of these visions God brings to my mind are just that. Simple yet profound. I have truly appreciated His way of speaking to me in my prayer times this way.
Lastly, unity in corporate prayer. I enjoy praying alone, don't get me wrong, but lately I have really, really enjoyed praying with other people. It helps me keep focused, gives me other insights, and broadens the scope of what needs prayed for. It also brings me a unified spirit to the others around me. Beyond the prayer group who meets at my church, I have found a similar unified group in my Moms In Prayer International group for my kids' school. Each week these ladies and I gather to pray for our kids, their staff/teachers, the administration of the school system, their fellow students, and the events going on. We praise God for who He is and watch Him answer our prayers and give us peace about the place our children are while away from us during the day. I know these ladies have not only my back, but the backs of my children...through prayer. There is a unity among us because we are all praying for the same thing...for God to be a wall around their school and a fire within. Same with my church group...God is unifying us on what to pray for and what He is at work doing there. It is always so exciting to hear your own heart's desires being prayed by another person in the group without them ever knowing what you were thinking. Unity in the body is powerful and priceless. Not only do those corporate times of prayer unify those of us who have gathered to pray, but it also unifies us with those we are praying for. I have a deeper connection to all those who surround my children through their school day. I'm more invested in them because I am praying for them and I am believing that God is going to do some mighty works in their lives. In the same way, I have formed some pretty deep passions for the people of our church because of our weekly gatherings of prayer there too. I care more about specific situations and people because I have been praying for them. It's life-giving all the way around.
So, all of this...deep intimacy, connection, passion, desire, power, joy, excitement, love, healing, freedom, miraculous and Godnatural happenings, abundant life...this has all been taking place in my life because of prayer. Because of spending time with God allowing Him to get to know me for who I truly am and me to get to know Him for who He truly is. Prayer has been the KEY in unleashing the Spirit of God to work in me and through me to impact this world for His Kingdom. It is breath-taking to be in the midst of. To be honest, the more I am doing it, the more I want to do it more. Prayer is addictive...in a very GOOD way!
I hope by making your way through all these thoughts and stories, you find yourself in a place of being encouraged to pray. If you are not a person who prays at all, maybe you will be nudged to simply begin by introducing yourself to God and asking for Him to come and sit with you for a bit of time. I encourage you to open yourself up to moments of communication between the two of you. If you are like me a little ways back, feeling overwhelmed with how "bad" I was doing in my prayer life, I would encourage you to investigate why talking with God is so difficult. Perhaps you will find, like me, you are reserving a bit of yourself back from Him out of lies you are still choosing to believe instead of the Truth. I desire for you to believe that no matter how little you are praying, you are still a prayer warrior and you have a God who is the Ultimate Victor on your side. If you are in a place where you are hungry to see more of what God is doing in you, around you, and through you, I encourage you to pray, pray, pray, and pray all the more. The more you get in His Presence, the more your eyes will be open to that Heavenly Work--that powerful, miraculous work--going on. The more you pray, the more you will be able to join in and help Him love this world the way it needs love. Finally, please remember no matter where you are in your prayer journey, there is no "wrong" way to pray, friends. No possible "wrong way" to talk with God. He is BIG. He can handle the conversation without getting hurt feelings...he is only love. And that God of love desires to talk with you. What are you waiting for?