Prayer on the Move. Day one...
“We'll keep you in our thoughts and prayers.” What do people mean by that? Are they saying they normally think without praying and pray without thinking? Exactly what are they going to do? Are they going to think about me, or pray for me? Or will they do both?
Surely every one of us has either heard or made this comment… at funeral homes… hospitals… those places and times when folks don't know what else to say.
But friends and family who are close to us won't communicate with us in that way. They will cry with us, sit with us, laugh with us, work for us… they will do whatever they can to trade their joy for our sorrow.
We would never even think about responding to their love with a “We'll keep you in our thoughts and prayers,” in their moment of distress. No… we would boldly give of ourselves to lift them up.
God came to earth in our likeness so He could be with us in our time of need. And He does everything He can to trade His joy for our sorrow.
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:17–18 ESV)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15–16 NIV)
And yet we respond to His love with some really lame responses… and call them prayer.
Let's take the next few days and bring prayer out of the closet, and get it moving in our lives and the lives of those around us. Let's move prayer from a ritual to a lifestyle.
Several years ago, a couple we considered as spiritual mentors suggested that Sherrel and I start praying together each day. They gave us limited instructions: “Grab each other by the hand and pray together for as long as you can.”
“Okay,” we both thought as we sat down together the next
“How long have we been praying?” I asked. “About five minutes,” Sherrel replied.
But we stayed with it. And the five minutes that seemed like an eternity has now become the thirty to forty‐five minutes—flying by sometimes like it was only five.
What are the rules? They keep changing. But God, Sherrel, and I hanging out together… doing whatever… has always been the constant.
It is so easy to formalize prayer—actually, “institutionalizing” prayer is a better description. We think we have to address God a certain way in the beginning. We think we have to end a certain way. We think we have to start off with giving thanks, i.e. entering into His gates with Thanksgiving (which may normally be a good idea if you have the time… but not so good if you are sliding off your roof, or if you are about to run into the back of a stalled vehicle).
And sometimes it gets ridiculous. A few weeks ago I saw “Ron” sitting over in a corner at the shelter—in some very obvious pain. So I went over to visit with him. After finding out what was going on, I asked him if he would like for me to pray with him. He responded with, “No thank you. I only do my praying in my prayer closet.” It was hard for me to keep a straight face—a homeless man who didn't even have a closet.
But we are all guilty of this nonsense. When Sherrel and I first began to set aside a block of time each morning to pray together, we had our own preconceived ideas of what constituted prayer. I would be talking about a passage in the Bible I had been studying, and Sherrel would say, “Let's get to praying.” (But I thought I was praying.) Sherrel would be talking about something God had put on her heart, and I would say, “Let's get to praying.” (But she thought she was praying.)
We began to realize we needed to keep a pretty loose rein on how we defined prayer. Prayer with your spouse is intimate—way more intimate than physical intimacy. Stuff comes out… all kinds of stuff… when you pray together with your spouse. And you'll miss a lot of what God wants to do if you limit what you're willing to call prayer.
Our prayer time together looks different every day. And sometimes it's not so pretty. Occasionally, we've made each other cry (rather, I've made Sherrel cry). We've had disagreements. We've been embarrassed. We've been humbled.
But it's always been good. God has healed us physically—even as we've prayed. God has brought us comfort. He has given us Words to speak over stubborn situations in our lives. We have prayed for things and He's interrupted us with phone calls that have been answers to those very prayers. You name it… and He's done it. He has pretty much destroyed our preconceived ideas about prayer.
So we cry before Him… laugh before Him… dance before Him… lay on the floor before Him. Sometimes we are just quiet before Him—listening for anything… anything He wants to say. And sometimes we declare His Word so loudly… the neighbors might be able to hear us.
Prayer is not a formula but a relationship. Whether you are praying by yourself, with your spouse, with your friends, with strangers... prayer is not a monologue but a dialogue.
I am absolutely convinced that God is eagerly waiting for you to throw out all your preconceived ideas about prayer, so you and the God who wants to be with you can just hang out together and see some amazing things happen.
Have a good day,