No one is a firmer believer in the power of prayer than the devil; not that he practices it, but he suffers from it. ~Guy H. KingPrayer: our long distance communication line to God. As Christians we are told to do it, encouraged to practise it & defeated when we read of the giants who spend hours in prayer when our own paltry efforts seem to rise no higher than the ceiling & go nowhere.
When we were children my mother always admonished us to "Read the instructions first!" None of us ever did. Only when completely lost & defeated did we refer to the instruction manual.
Sadly I approached prayer in the same cavalier fashion then wondered why I wasn't getting anywhere. At one point, when I was considered a mature Christian [perish the thought!] I confessed at a bible study I didn't pray. That wasn't strictly accurate but I was profoundly tired of talking to someone who never talked back. It's nearly as bad as the people who never let you get a word in edgewise. I was particularly peeved because one of the only prayers I can ever remember praying is that I would become a woman of prayer ~ so you know, I was majorly peeved. Ask & it shall be given,....poured out, pressed down...in full measure ...& all the rest.
That little word *become*. Become implies something I missed ~ time. It takes time to grow. It takes time to become anything but like the impatient & petulant child I am I wanted it handed to me on a plate without any effort on my part & God never ever works like that. It is bad for us.
Over the years I did some experimenting ~ without having read the instruction manual. You see if God was real, & He said He was, then one could have a relationship with Him ~ & He says that too. Without relationship I felt the whole thing was a fairly pointless exercise. I could just as easily talk to myself without the angst & fraughtness ~ & very dull it would quickly become.
I began reading, as is my want when I get stuck & am looking for answers, but most of what I read was singularly unhelpful. I reverted to experimentation. Now I want to make it perfectly clear that this wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done. Most of us have no idea about the spiritual realms or the inherent dangers, though scripture warns us to test the spirits because there is not just the Holy Spirit inhabiting the spiritual realms. Only by God's grace & mercy have I not come to serious harm because He says those who seek Him shall find Him ~ with the proviso that they seek Him with all their heart. The first question God wants us to ask for ourselves is, How serious are we? If we are serious He will engage with us.
Now the prayer I have always found hardest, & one of the most common of all prayers, is the prayer of petition. I never have come to terms with asking for that which the Lord already knows I need ~ or that my friends need. In prayer as in life I will do without rather than bother the Lord with those things we both know perfectly well He knows about. I know this is not scriptural but there you have it. Working on it, ok.
The prayer I have found easiest is the prayer of thanksgiving, the prayer of meditation & the prayer of contemplation. Two of those 3 make great use of the imagination, & I'm strong there so naturally that is where I headed. Plus it held the promise of greater intimacy. I was driven by the need to get closer to God & headed anywhere that held even the remotest possibility of that. Naturally those were 2 of the harder areas that required time & patience & discernment.
I struggled. I floundered. I wallowed. Occasionally I got glimpses of the light, moments of perfect lucidity, & what I desired above all else, intimacy with God. Get a taste of that & you will always hunger for more. Along the way I learned some things. I learned patience is my friend. I learned if I wanted to walk in the spiritual realms I needed to pray for protection before I set out. I learnt there are distractions & that not all that is available is of God. I have made mistakes, lots & lots of mistakes, but I know the reality of God & I would not trade that. I do wish, however, that Richard Foster's Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home had been available when I began this journey nearly 40 years ago.
Foster identifies 21 different sorts of prayer. He divides these into 3 categories: the inward [inward transformation]; the upward [intimacy with God]; the outward [ministry]. I grabbed this when were were in Koorong at the beginning of the year & am reading through it slowly, not in order but according to what has grabbed my attention & spoken to my condition. Of all the books I've read on prayer, about prayer, the how tos of prayer, this has been the most helpful. Foster shares openly his own struggles in prayer & exercises that may help. Personally I don't find these particularly useful ~ what has been useful & comforting to me is the confirmation that certain aspects of prayer that I have engaged in, willy~nilly & not necessarily from choice, like the prayer of tears or the prayer of rest, aren't that unusual & have a long history within the overall church tradition. Those areas where I struggle in prayer may yet open up because, as Foster points out, so much of what occurs in prayer is a gift from the Father & how He chooses to engage with us. If you want to deepen your prayer life & get closer with God I'd recommend a read of this book.