"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” - Ephesians 6:18
I have spent 20 years in full-time evangelism, traveling the world sharing God’s Word and speaking with people about life and spiritual issues. The hurts and frustrations of individuals run the gamut, but when it comes to our spiritual walk with God, one of the most common points of discussion is prayer.
There is a misconception about prayer that often hinders individuals from fully benefitting from this intimate act in which God desires us to take part. Too often, we view prayer as a reverent, eloquent monologue during which we use “thee’s” and “thou’s,” and we forget the essence of prayer is a simple conversation.
Communication is at the heart of our lives. Without it, our relationships would fail and we would live in isolation and frustration. Yet, every day we have successful conversations with friends, spouses, coworkers and even strangers.
God wants us to have this same type of conversation with Him, and applying some key principles can help strengthen your prayer life and relationship with God.
Avoid a Monologue
It is very easy for us to speak our prayer to God and move on with the next task, waiting for him to provide the answer. But if you really think this through, the concept seems a little odd. You would never call your best friend and speak for 10 straight minutes only to hang up without giving him or her opportunity to reply; so why would you do this to God?
Prayer is a two-way conversation. We need to practice the art of listening.
How do you listen to God? Sit alone, be quiet and wait on God to respond. Look at the example of Isaac in the Old Testament. He was not accustomed to waiting and hearing from God, so when God spoke, he did not even recognize His voice.
When you hear the voice of your best friend, you know they are in a room without even seeing them. If we take time and get alone with God and wait to hear from Him, we will hear Him. And the more you hear from Him, the more you recognize His voice.
God chooses to speak to us all in different ways – through Scripture, music and even other people. But if we aren’t listening for His voice, we may miss the good things he has to tell us.
We live in a technologically driven world. You can text your best friend, send a Facebook message or call them on the phone, but when you converse with them in person, there is a completely different connection. The same goes for our relationship with God. Intimate relationships require “face-to-face” connections.
Getting to know God and developing an intimate prayer life requires that we meet with Him in a place of intimacy. This will mean something different for every person. Just as a husband and wife may return to a special place on an anniversary, perhaps the intimate place you spend time with God is the place where you first met Him; a quiet place in your backyard; a favorite chair in your home; or a small closet in your bedroom. No matter where that place is for you, the important thing is that it’s yours and God’s – a place where you can have intimate conversations with Him.
Honesty is the Best Policy
What differentiates a relationship between a best friend from that of an acquaintance is honesty. For those closest to us, we are able to freely share our emotions, exposing the other person to a level of intimacy not known by others. We let our guards down and are honest with who we are – good and bad. God wants this same level of relationship.
We often think that in order to have this type of relationship with Christ, we must get our “lives together” before God would even want to talk to us. This is a lie from the enemy. In Isaiah 64:6 it says that the best we have to bring to God are like dirty rags to Him. Even on your very best day, you still aren’t good enough, but that’s okay because that is where God wants us. In grace and mercy He sees us blameless before Him because of His son, Jesus.
God is our creator. He knows about our fears, excitements, joys and concerns, but He wants us to tell Him about these things personally. We have to learn to be honest and tell God what is going on in our lives because He already knows and accepts us where we are.
Consistency is Key
For the most part, those who are near and dear to our heart are in our lives on a consistent basis. It’s rare that I go even a day without talking to my wife, even when I’m traveling, because I want to know how her day was. I’m eager to connect with her. In this same way, God is eager to connect with us and wants us to be consistent in our conversations with Him.
Forming a habit – good or bad – takes time, but once it is formed, it’s hard to quit. When you first begin praying consistently, it may be hard and out of the norm. You may not know what to speak to God about or how to listen to Him. But as time goes by, it becomes a staple to your day and you will begin to be able to converse with God with ease because you have formed a relationship. You will be eager to speak with Him.
So what is stopping you today from having an intimate prayer life? Don’t let anything hold you back from having a deep, personal conversation with Christ. He created us as a people who love community, and He wants to have that same intimate relationship with us.