Monday, December 15, 2008

Prayer is Hard

This is difficult to confess as a pastor - but prayer is hard. I've always been a good Bible study guy because it's objective, it's concrete, it's easy to measure. Prayer has always been more difficult for me because it is the opposite of all those things. Plus, it's so personal with God it's threatening. Because maybe He's going to ask me to actually change something about the way I'm doing my life. In the past couple years I have made some good progress in the area of prayer - here are a few of my learnings:

  1. Pray out loud - this may seem a little weird but it has helped me a lot. If you do this around people you will look nuts (which is not always bad), but I would recommend a quiet room somewhere by yourself for a designated amount of time. It is much more normal to just talk - much easier to stay focused. Approach prayer like a conversation.
  2. Follow my mental wanderings - for years I was frustrated because during prayer my mind would wander to other, seemingly unrelated, things. Now instead of trying to clear my mind of all that stuff - I use it as a springboard. Maybe God is bringing those things to mind because they are the very things I'm supposed to be praying about. Now when something pops in my head I just go with it. I pray about that thing - give it back to God - try to discern if there are other things I should be praying about in and around that topic- and then move on.
  3. Listen to God - after doing these first two things I'm usually at a place where I've said what I needed to say out loud to God. I have also followed my mental wanderings wherever they lead. This finally leaves my mind clear and focused. Instead of saying Amen, I stop to listen, and ask God what's next for me. This is the part that gets dangerous because God does speak- we just usually don't stop long enough to listen. He challenges me, encourages me, corrects me, rebukes me, loves me, laughs with me, expresses disappointment in me, pushes me, etc. Then I have to decide whether I will obey or not - but at least there no room to question what God wants - He has made himself clear...

Anything that has been helpful for your prayer life?


Danny Lucas said...

Derek's Flickr photos are to the your right and below this comment. Scroll down and see if you can find God in them.

Is He is the brilliant purity of the snow scene?

Is He in food at the table for dinner?

Is He in the embrace of a little girl to Santa Claus?

When you look for God everywhere and all the time, He is easy to spot in prayer. His laughter is infectious, for His sense of humor is above all others.

My daughter and I built a snowman years ago. They are difficult to start and require wet snow, not powdered stuff. A snowball is rolled forever until it becomes a tennis ball, then a basketball.
Rolling and rolling is seemingly unendless, when, all-of-a-sudden, in two rolls you can not move the ball an inch. It is heavy.
It is finished.

So you start all over and make the middle section.
When big enough, THAT one, needs lifted upon the first ball to create a man.
You will need a trinity of huge snow balls to make one snow man.

It was all I could do to lift that middle ball one time, and I was breathing too hard. I placed my hands on his belly and stopped to breathe.

"Did you see that, Karli?" I asked my daughter.
And I breathed out again.

And I breathed again.

"You do it". And Karli, all of age 4 or 5 breathed out and saw her breath too.

"Isn't that amazing Karli?
When it is the coldest time of our life, we breathe out,.... and the invisible, becomes visible!"

"We know that we breathe year round, but we only "see" it in winter. It is invisible the rest of the time,...but always there".

"You know anything else like that?, I asked.

Karli put her left hand under her right elbow and raised her right mitten to her mouth to ponder.
(she is a deep thinker)

Momentarily she spoke:
"Only electricity...and God".

From that moment of childhood brilliance, I have learned prayer life is alive when we make the invisible become visible.

No, you do not have to go out in the snow to pray.
Nor must you freeze or be in the chilly time of life.
Tho I find it revealing that in cold moments of life, (death, divorce, job loss, pass a test in school, or at the doctors, etc) people freely turn to God.

I like a candle lit nearby, to "see" the flicker of light, just as Moses saw a burning bush that was not consumed. The Light of The World is coming to say hello.

I beathe deeply in and out, consciously reminding myself that the invisible, is about to become visible in my room.

I used to listen to soft Christian music like Carman singing "I Feel Jesus" (on youtube still), but skip that since going deaf.

I often place a drop of annointing oil on the doorway of the room and on my forehead. The fragrance is intoxicating.

What is going on in these and myriad more small things, the tablet and pen I always have nearby to write the astonishing things I listen to....NOT hear,... is an intentional involvement of many senses.
Hear (for you)
Listen (for me and you)
Sound of Talk.

Some folks are comfortable with ACTS formula; adoration first, then confession, then thanksgving, and finally supplication....gimme, gimme, gimme, moments in prayer.

I never liked that formula for it seems a set ritual.
It would be like walking up to my best friend and shaking hands saying,
"Hi, my name is Danny"....
every time I see him.

I like prayer to begin, wherever we left off last time alone.

Psalms are wonderful to recite aloud. Just some lines, not a whole Psalm.
I write in the margin of my Bible when He comments on a Psalm line we share, and I have to say, they are astonishing observations He makes.
My Bible is written throughout the pages and margins....each dated too.
It is His journal to me.

Surprise yourself at least once this side of heaven.
Schedule a day alone with God.

You know how marathon runners are in pain, exhausted, can go no further, and all of a sudden, "hit a wall" and it is as if they can run forever now?

Well, a day with God at least once will shock you, as you "hit the wall".
You will be conscious of tuning other things out as they come to mind.
But the biggest surprise will come, when you have been in prayer for over two hours and all of a sudden see the clock and think only two minutes went by.....but 2 HOURS have gone by. I tell you, this will shock you the first time. Then, you will come back for more.
Our God is not boring company.

If you pray at night, look for Him all day long, in people and places, and events of the day. That night, tell Him where you spotted Him and ask what is going on.
He answers.

Ask what He wants of you in the next day and week.
He answers.

Your life was sustained in a womb with an umbilical cord.
Your life is sustained outside the womb with the umbilical cord of prayer.

I have to learn more ASL, American Sign Language, to communicate with folks these days with hearing shot. It is exhausting to do and to concentrate.
It is also beautiful to see.

One word is "Trust".
You wrap your hands around an imaginary rope, one hand above the other, and place both hands above you. You then, "yank down" as if you "trust" the rope to hold. That's ASL for "trust">

The derivative of "trust" is "truth". Instead of putting your hands around the rope and making the sign for "trust", simply fold them in prayer and meet the "Light, the Way, and the Truth. It is NOT ASL, but it is true.

You may want to get a sign language person at your church services to teach everyone the beauty in communicating to God with your hands.

"Jesus" is taking your middle finger of the right hand, and touching the nail hole of your left palm. Then repeat this motion, with your left middle finger touching the nail hole of the right palm.
That's "Jesus".

Do the same thing, but make your middle finger softly stroke away from the hole, to the base of your hand (both hands as above).
You have just silently stroked the word, "Mercy".

"Jesus" and "mercy" are almost identical in ASL.

Now if you can "see" how easy it is to beautifully converse in Sign Language, can't you "see" how beautiful prayer sounds as you see it too?

This prayer time will be the best part of your life on Earth, and in eternity.

Di said...

For me it comes down to LOVE, believing His love for me, and just loving to talk to Him. Prayer increases love in us, pulling us out, into loving Him and Others. I went to our community prayer setting to learn how to pray and have discovered that praying is so much easier when you hear others pray(educates) and they pray for you. I then learned Prayer is Power and knowing that I can go to the throne and effect change for another and their problems 'causes me to pray out of responsibility too. Sometimes when I can't pray, or feel compassion, I cry out asking the Holy Spirit to help me to pray, to get it out. Right now I am seeking another prayer partner or two to meet for a weekly coffee. As saints we should be committing time in prayer asking our Father to fill our pastors and missionaries with an overwhelming fire in the belly to be praying. Prayer is just so necessary to do for connectedness to each other and to Him and to fight the battles.