Wednesday, March 3, 2021

The Way Into God

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For most of my life I felt that prayer was simply asking God for stuff. With that understanding, I remained ignorant for decades until I was forced to change my thinking.

In January, 2011, a Christian music conference came to town and the area churches were asked to provide teams who would participate in 24-hour prayer until the conclusion of the event. Solely in an effort to support my church and pastor, I signed up to be on one of the teams. Going into it, I could not think of anything that promised to be more pointless and dull.

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My prior experience with prayer being dull occurred years before, when as a new Christian, I determined to go to a remote place and pray all day, in an effort to open up communication with God. I had heard glowing testimonies from those who God apparently spoke to on a regular basis, and I wanted that to happen with me. I honestly figured God would jump at the chance.

So it was that I went out to Ivy Boyer’s farm in rural St. Louis County and entered into the upper room of her barn. And I prayed….and prayed….and prayed. All I can say is thank goodness I brought along my rifle, because after about four very, very dull hours, I gave up and went squirrel hunting! And with that not-so-glowing prior experience in prayer, I began praying with the team from my church.

I suppose in the intervening years something had changed in me with regard to prayer, because the team I was on had a great time – I had a great time. God began by showing me little vignettes of visions, almost the same as daydreams, but not from me. Then He began “communicating” snippets of His wisdom and His heart. I didn’t hear any audible voice, but I understood that in a quiet way, God was speaking to me, and in a very careful way, if I was alert to it, I actually could “hear” Him. That was the beginning of my “prayer life”, and I rely on it today more than I do food.

There are some basics I should mention concerning prayer. First and foremost, prayer is not very much about ‘asking God for stuff’, rather it is the very fabric of our relationship with Him. None of us (I hope) spent all or most of our conversations with our parents asking for stuff, and God is a parent to His children. I mean that quite literally. And it was in the daily communications with our parents that we got to know who they were and what made them tick. No, we didn’t take a note that on a certain day we would purposely talk to our parents in order to flesh out our relationship with them, but it came about as a natural byproduct of our regular contact with them.

After I became an adult and moved out of my parent’s house, my dad would often call me on the phone. Stupid me! I thought there were some underlying reasons for the calls, and when I would ask why he had called, all he would say was, “I just called to hear your voice.” I realize now that he was communicating in his own way that he missed our relationship as father and son. There were no hidden reasons; he just missed…me. You have no idea how much I wish I could re-live those years.

Another aspect of prayer is how we learn to recognize exactly what God’s will is, and we learn over and over that prayer is not all about us, in fact, very little of it is. Prayer is about interacting, working in fact, with God, to bring about His will on the earth. You know, God has His own ideas about just what needs to happen to further His Kingdom plans on earth, and we remain behind the curve until we figure out that He does.

Any discovery of God’s will would prove fruitless without the fundamentals of His will and His nature clearly set forth in the Bible. If we want to learn how to pray, we must have at least a working knowledge of Who God says He is and what He wants. We must look for Him in the scriptures, but we also have to remain pliable, for the God I thought I knew all about in 1972 is much bigger and better today. And since God cannot change, I suppose I’m the one who did – I call that progress. Derek Prince used to say that while we are reading God’s word, God’s word is reading us. That’s very accurate to my experience, and will be to yours if you allow for it.

We should also ask ourselves two questions. First, what does God want from me?, and second, what do I want from God? Of course, our goals might change over time, but it is necessary to have them, for otherwise we simply drift through life. God has plans for each of us, plans that will increase the maturity of our relationship with Him, and plans that will concurrently increase our usefulness for His Kingdom.

This world may be all we know about now, but it is in no way eternal, and God has eternal destinies in mind for each of us. In prayer, we will learn how to think past the temporal limits of our minds and enter more fully into the eternal freedom that awaits us.

I could go on and on, but I won’t right now. I can’t explain to others what discoveries await them through prayer because those discoveries belong to them. I will say this however, prayer is not what we do – it is more bound up with who we are becoming. Amen


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