One day while walking, I was complaining about the time it took to get outside and pray. (With my wandering mind, walking helps me concentrate.) As I whined, I said, “But I have so much work to do.” Immediately, God who speaks directly into our minds, replied, “This is your work.”
Since then, my attitude toward prayer has changed. However, ‘work’ mostly describes intercessory prayer, the kind of praying that brings the needs of others to God, usually the need of His saving power in their lives, but other needs too. It is selfless and often difficult.
There are other types of prayer. In her book, Help, Thanks, Wow, Anne Lamont writes a tad irreverently about requests for help, thanksgiving, and praise, yet I can think of others.
Chambers says our conception of prayer is important. This makes me think. I’ve most often thought of prayer as one-way communication with cries for help and hopefully a bit of listening. Yet I know that prayer is also conversation with God, and while I pray in those other ways, just conversing with God does not happen as often as it should.
Chambers says that if I think of prayer as the breath in my lungs and the blood from my heart, then I am thinking rightly. Blood flows ceaselessly, and breathing continues ceaselessly without me being conscious of either. Prayer is not an exercise, or an assignment, or a duty, but the spontaneous conversation of a child with her Father, verbal or otherwise. It depends on being in tune with each other.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)
The fact that Jesus never mentions unanswered prayer is a big encouragement to me. Prayer is always answered, sometimes with a visible display, sometimes with a soft “wait, not yet” and sometimes with a loving “No, I have a better plan.”
As I wrote that, it comes to mind that hearing and understanding those last two answers is better and more likely to happen if and when I am praying in that unceasing conversation with Him. If I only bring my prayer list, even talk from my heart about those needs, but have not really listened for His comments about each one, then I’m missing the most important part of prayer. He wants to answer in the best way; but am I listening for those answers? Or only for the outcomes that I am hoping for?
My questions today are these: What keeps me from listening more? Is it because my expectations are too high? Too low? Am I just lazy? Am I afraid of His ‘wait’ or ‘no’ answers? These questions are prayer requests too, questions that require listening for Him.