Pray until you pray.
It’s a simple idea put forth by many evangelicals throughout history: the idea that, prayer is a time where we meet God, where we commune with him as close friends, and that it doesn’t happen unless we spend significant, quality time with him.
The illustration is simple as well: those who are your acquaintances and those who are dear friends are separated by hours and years worth of time together, shoulder to shoulder and face to face, sharing life.
There’s such a big difference between knowing something and doing it. Looking back I wonder how I could have been stuck so long thinking of God like the giant piñata and prayer as the stick that brought blessings raining down like tootsie rolls and gobstoppers.
I had a list even. A sheet of folded paper with sections for each area of my life. It’s not wrong to organize your prayer life. Keeping cards can be helpful in reminding you what to pray about. But the end goal isn’t the list. The point isn’t to check off items on a prayer sheet. The end goal is communion with the creator.
How many times I’ve hurried through the list without ever getting to pray! Passing up the opportunity to connect with the creator is inconceivable when you stop to think about the magnitude of his glory and how he’s stooped to make time and make possible the chance to be with you, sitting there in your room next to you, a hand under his chin, just waiting—waiting for you to slow down, to focus your attention, to pray into that moment when you begin to pray.
It’s incredible how much time has passed here living in this foreign land for me to get this and to actually start trying it. To discover God as a person, as someone who can be known personally and that I can grow a relationship with him by spending time talking to him and listening to him.
This idea came incrementally over the past week as I’ve been listening to talks by Wayne Grudem from his Systematic Theology. On prayer, Dr. Grudem tells a story about a pastor who felt called to pray four hours each morning from 8am to 12pm. As his church grew he cut back the hours little by little until he was only making time for a few minutes at the start of each day.
Not too long after, he received a call from an old acquaintance across the country who told him, “I don’t know why I’m saying this, but I feel the Lord has given me a word for you.” “What is it?” asked the pastor. “God says, ‘I miss our time together.’” The pastor broke down in tears.
God desires us to spend time with him because that’s why he created us. We are created to worship and glorify him and to find joy in his presence and provision. God desires that time and we draw the greatest satisfaction from connecting and communing with him.
In praying more, getting over the amount of time I think I might be wasting has been a struggle. But I think that it’s a holdover from the way I used to pray. I used to try and get through my list of things to say, and felt like this was just another chore to accomplish or another tick to mark in a box. No wonder it was difficult to take the time.
Martin Luther is regarded as saying, “I have so much to do today that I’ll have to spend the first three hours in prayer.” Prayer is not another thing to check off the list as you go about your busy day; it’s the very thing that will allow you to do anything. Not because it’s a magical formula, but because building a relationship with our creator is the single most important thing in all of life. Everything else will grow from this relationship, finding its proper place as we “live and move and have our being” in him.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7