This is it. The final week of my online Principles and Practice of Prayer class. And I can't begin to tell you what I've learned about talking to God.
Well, first of all, that it's not all about talking.
A good deal of prayer should be about listening, before I even open my mouth. Responding to what my Abba-Daddy is trying to communicate to me. Orienting myself to his presence and moving at His pace. It's been said that prayer is one of the biggest time savers in the world! It helps us to prioritize our days and avoid unnecessary conflict and to do items. It helps us to walk in grace.
But this listening quietly before God thing also happens to be the most challenging thing about prayer in a facebook/twitter/cell phone/texting/look at me world. Seriously. God is forever asking, "Will you unplug for awhile and meet with me? Let me love on you and equip you with the grace and love that only I can offer?"
But we never even hear His wistful whisper, because our iphone beeps, our BFF starts chatting on facebook, or we are attempting to best our personal record at multitasking.
"In quietness and confidence shall be your strength..." says Isaiah 30:15. Except that we are rarely ever quiet--so we go on limping along, lacking the only true source of strength and confidence.
But if you want to know what the most astonishing thing about prayer is, after all these weeks of reading books and Scripture and writing and actually praying, it is this:
GOD ANSWERS PRAYER.
Astonishing, isn't it? Prayer actually works. James 5:16b, The Amplified Version: "The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man [or woman] makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working]."
Over the last several weeks, I've watched videos and read articles that offer astonishing answers to prayer that came when God's people were broken before Him, acknowledging their need for Him and begging for His involvement through intercession. People have been miraculously healed. Empty gas tanks on a remote river in Hanau, Papau New Guinea went for 45 additional minutes with no gas in them after prayer. People turned from witchcraft. God supplied George Mueller with miraculous supplies of food for orphans on prayer alone--no requests were made to other humans. Just to God.
But I have to tell you the truth. The most exciting thing about answered prayer is that it can happen to you personally! After you understand that God is not a genie-in-the-bottle, and you get excited about joining Him in His work, He responds!
That is how we ended up helping a young woman detoxing from drugs only 24 hours after I prayed that God would make me sensitive to the Holy Spirit so I could be used in a powerful way for Him. In order for this to happen, my physical therapy was mysteriously cancelled and my schedule freed before I got the email that help was needed.
That is also how I started praying for a friend one night and God told me to set aside my prayer agenda and to pray differently. Later I found out she needed protection that exact night, and that is exactly how God had redirected me to pray!
And that is how a dear friend experienced an incredible God-moment breakthrough in a relationship last week that we have been praying over for more than a year.
God, however, will not always answer our prayers in the way we asked. Thank goodness!
In His infinite love, goodness, and all-knowingness, He will answer them for the best possible good of His children, and He will start answering the moment we pray. Just because you cannot see or feel Him working, does not mean that your prayer has not unleashed a powerful force in the heavenlies. Keep at it. And ask your Abba to teach you how to pray. That is one prayer He is waiting, even at this very moment, to answer.
But be prepared. Those prayers offered in faith can move heaven and earth. You may find resistance, but God's power is greater.
One of my favorite prayer stories involves my then three-year-old niece Cassie, who I sat down at a picnic with a few summers ago. As soon as we started eating, she blurted out: "Stop it, Jesus!" loudly. I stared at her, wide-eyed. "C'mon, Jesus, stop it!" she cried. It took only a few more seconds for me to understand that Cassie's pigtails were blowing in her mouth, and since she knew Jesus created the wind, she was insistently asking that He cut it out. She said, happily, that He did!