The truth is that I know all of these things that we've talked about this week. I read them in the Scriptures, and I feel them in my heart, and I'm coming to know them more every day as I reflect on what I'm thinking about this holy fire.
But when I create a moment of prayer in my life, it's still too easy even for me to fall into the shallow things. Into the kinds of prayer that too many of us, including myself, have been praying for too long.
What do you say to God besides, "Lord, I want/need You to..."? How do you even start a prayer that's not about the need that brought you to pray in the first place?
Because most of us aren't praying without a need. Most of us aren't praying just because. Most of us aren't praying because God is good and we love Him. We might want to, but...it's just not how most of us were taught to pray.
And that's the challenge. Even in mature churches, even in places where pastors are fervent for the Lord, most of us are not given a good example on how to pray. Even in the best of churches, a lot of the prayers that we hear are just recaps of whatever message we just heard or song we just sang, and they're meant more for human ears than holy ones. We are taught to pray for ourselves and not for God's glory, most of the time, and how do we change this?
I think we change it by thinking of bigger things. Here's what I mean:
When you pray for whatever small thing you're thinking of, whatever selfish desire or personal need that you have, there's nothing wrong with that. Let's be clear about that up front - God wants you to bring your heart to Him, and if that's what's on your heart, there's nothing wrong with bringing it. There's nothing wrong with wanting God to heal you or strengthen you or redeem you. Not a thing. There's nothing wrong with a shallow prayer. This is better than no prayer at all.
But as you pray that prayer, ask yourself what kind of God it is you're looking for. Who would God have to be to answer this prayer in the way that you've prayed it? Who would God have to be to satisfy your soul right now?
For example, if you need healing, then the God that you need is a Healer. If you need strength, then that God that you need is Strong. If you need someone to fight for you, then the God that you need is Protector, maybe. If you need forgiven, the God you need is Gracious. Are you getting the point?
Once you've figured out who God has to be to answer you, start centering your prayer around that idea instead of your own. Start crying out to the God who is Healer/Strong/Protector/Gracious/Whatever instead of sitting there wallowing in your own demands. Start reflecting on the truths that let you know that the God you're praying to is the God you need. Start recounting all of the times He's already been who you're looking for - if Healer, then all of the blind men who have been given sight and lame men who are walking and lepers who are cleansed. Start shifting your focus from what you need to who God is.
Start thinking about the kinds of holy fire He has already rained down on us.
This will change the way you pray.
It takes time. I'm not pretending it doesn't. I'm still working on this myself. But it's worth working on.
Because if the image in Revelation is true (and it is - God said so), then it has to change the way we pray. It just has to.
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