Martin Luther once famously said, “To be a Christian without prayer, is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” Bold, you might say, but surely true? To be a Christian is to enjoy a two way relationship with God, and how do you have a relationship with someone without talking to them?
When you think of prayer what comes to mind?
When I was a child, my main experience of prayer was a memorised poem that my younger sister and I recited each night before bed. Occasionally we’d hold competitions to see who could finish the prayer the fastest; usually ending in much hilarity as the ‘winner’ would loudly and enthusiastically proclaim their success over the ‘loser’.
I’m glad to say I’ve matured a bit over the years from those first beginnings of speed praying! For me, prayer is an integral part of my life; anticipating and expecting a friendship with God that goes both ways, expecting to hear from God, rather than just speak at Him.
For this theme of prayer, I’ve decided to share the story of the first ‘real’ encounter with God that I can remember.
A Brush With Death
I discovered the impact of prayer at a fairly young age, although at the time I didn’t quite understand what it was.
A few months after I turned seven, I lost my dearly beloved Granddad to lung cancer. As the last remaining Grandparent in my life, he held a very dear place in my heart. I was shocked to the core the night my parents delivered the news that he had passed away and I still remember the night very clearly.
Not long after this I developed a massive fear of dying. As a child I would cry myself to sleep; petrified that either myself or one of my family members would die in the night.
One day, alone in my bedroom and utterly fed up with this predicament, I remember sitting on the floor and flicking through my children’s book of bible stories. It was my effort to find the solution to the fear that was plaguing me. I had made the connection that God could help me with my problem and the answer could be found in my little book of bible stories.
As I flicked through the various, brightly illustrated, old testament stories looking for help, I came upon the new testament. Here was an illustration of a cheerful and friendly looking Jesus with a bunch of smiling children sitting on his knee.
Instantly, I felt a peace and calm wash over me.
I remember marvelling that I no longer felt scared, but as a child I was too young to grasp what had happened. I just knew that something had changed and I no longer felt scared and I connected that to my bible stories, but I wasn’t quite sure what had taken place.
Let’s Keep It Real
The above experience is one of a number of ‘God experiences’ that means a great deal to me and has helped to solidify my faith when times get rough.
But, let’s keep it real. Have my prayers always been answered the way I have wanted? Of course not. Is there a person alive who has had their prayers answered how they asked 100% of the time? I would say no and probably for good reason.
From unmet dreams, to watching someone I had been praying for pass away, to failed job interviews, there have been times when my unmet requests have shaken my beliefs and made me question my faith.
Why haven’t my prayers been answered? Only God knows.
I don’t understand why my neighbour and family friend passed away after months of me praying for her healing. I don’t understand why God couldn’t perform a miracle and bless dear friends of mine with a much longed for baby, as they embarked on their final round of IVF.
What I am sure of, is that I know God well enough to be certain that He is good, that He is just, that He is merciful. Therefore, I trust that He has a bigger plan. That His thoughts and ways are bigger than my ways:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
It’s Pretty Incredible
If you think about it, the fact that we have instant, direct access to the creator of the Universe is amazing. Isn’t it mind boggling that we can talk to and hear from the creator of all things?
With this in mind, I thought I’d finish this testimony by sharing five of my thoughts on Prayer:
- Pray where and how you are comfortable.
I’m a big believer that we are all made differently and one size doesn’t fit all.
If written prayer is more your thing, then why not?
- God can speak anywhere!
I’ve heard from God while brushing my teeth, in Tesco car park, and when I’ve really wanted to discuss something else with Him.
What I love is that He can soften my heart to my own concerns, whilst also giving me a word to pass on to someone else.
- Listen to the still small voice of God.
If the Holy Spirit prompts you to pray for someone – do it!
I have found out later that I have been prompted to pray for situations where someone has been made redundant, a couple experiencing marital problems, and a friend undergoing an emergency C section to save her unborn baby.
It might sound trite to read, but it’s a privilege to intercede in these situations.
- Ask God questions.
Sometimes, His answers will completely take you by surprise and utterly delight you at the same time.
“…but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21
- Ask God to convict you.
I personally, quite like to ask God to convict me as I have a habit of wandering off and doing my own thing.
It keeps me on track, helps me to be aware of my weaknesses, and keep tabs on my behaviour.
I’d love to hear your feedback on this topic and my five thoughts on prayer above.
What would you add to that list?