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What Prayer Looks Like

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prayinghands“Prayer is talking with God.”

“Pray without ceasing.”

“Prayer is the breath of the soul.”

Have you heard any of those statements, perhaps over and over again? Being told you should do something usually doesn’t work. What does prayer actually look like – today?

I get more than a little frustrated with some Christian types who spout off great spiritual sounding phrases at certain moments, and then the rest of the time they act like anything but Christian. A few King James phrases on Sunday morning or a memorized but thoughtless prayer at bedtime is not what it’s about.

The following story was shared by Dennis and Barbara Rainey:

Tommy was a National Guard Reservist called into action during the Gulf War. On the last Sunday before his actual deployment, the church he attended had a special time of prayer, sending him off with their promise of support and encouragement.                        

As you can imagine, the prayers for Tommy’s safety were thick with theology and high-sounding words (as churchy prayers often are): “Sovereign God of the universe, we trust that You will protect this young man on his mission, O Lord, and that You will keep him within the shelter of Your wings.” All very sincere, I’m sure, but quite flowery and unoriginal.

Then a little eight-year-old voice piped up from the back, “Dear Jesus, don’t let Tommy get killed, okay? That’s all. Okay. Amen.”
I think God smiles at the kind of prayers that eight-year-old boy prayed! No big theological discussion here, OK? Just some thoughts on making this thing called prayer work.

Here are five different ways I experience prayer.

  1. “God, Help Me Please!” Who better to turn to when we’re in trouble but God! A child  in trouble, a physical illness, financial pressure, anxiety, fear, loneliness, pain – bring it all to Him. He’s the only One with big enough shoulders to carry it all. Sometimes it’s a momentary desperate cry.  Sometimes it’s a list of needs we carry to Him. Sometimes it’s an      emotional outflow from the overwhelming pain in the soul. It’s all turning      to Him in our need.
  2. Listening for His  Voice. Communication is only communication when it goes both ways.     And that hold true with God as well. Sometimes I just sit quietly, silent in His presence. Sometimes I ask Him to talk to me about something specific, and then I shut up and listen. I’ve learned that the other  voices in my soul must be quiet for His voice to be heard. If my own  emotions are screaming I may have to spill them out to Him first before I  can be calm enough to hear Him in my spirit.
  3. Prayer with others. My husband and I  pray out loud in our home daily. And corporate prayer in the body of  Christ is a big part of why we come together as God’s people. There is      something very powerful when a group of Christians go before God together with a common purpose, inviting Him to make His Kingdom real in their midst, in their church, in their town, in their world.
  4. Prayer for others. I am blessed to pray for others on the radio, and we hear from those who listen that those prayers make a difference. Lifting others up before God – either in our  private prayers or publically – is just an outflow of God’s Spirit working within us. There’s nothing more exhilarating than seeing God act in someone else’s life who you have prayed for!
  5. Taking God into Everyday Life. Sometimes I pray quietly while performing a difficult      medical procedure, or engaging in a difficult conversation, or struggling with a hard decision. The words may be heard and understood by God alone, but it both opens my heart to Him and brings Him directly into my circumstances. I believe that honors Him. Moments of verbal and nonverbal prayer throughout the day keep me in touch with what God is doing around me.

If there has been one single thing that has transformed my prayer life, it was learning to listen. I hope your conversations with God are real, alive, and meaningful. If not, why not give it a try? He’s listening. Are you?

Used by permission from Dr. Carol Peters-Tanksley. All rights reserved.

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