Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nine Things I've Learned About the Simplicity of Praying

It seems to me that we can make prayer way too hard. Jesus says we should come to our Heavenly Father as little children.

Is it difficult for a little child to need and want his mother or father? No. It's built into children to ask for whatever they need. It's natural and easy for them to do so, In fact, they know of no other way to have their needs met other than relying on their mother and father.

So why do we "older kids" make asking and trusting so difficult? That's the question I've been wondering about lately.

For years, after my kids were all out of the house and my husband was off to work by 4:30AM, I was before the throne of grace for "three hours in the wee hours" every day. I got up with Robert to get him ready for work and didn't go back to bed. By 7:30, after three hours of praying and reading, I was ready to face the demands of the day.

But things changed. We moved. Robert stopped going to work (came home on disability). I started sleeping till 7AM. And there was no privacy in our new house. Praying became almost impossible. I was faced with all these new challenges and I didn't face them well.

It really was quite disconcerting for me. Try as I might, I just couldn't get back that 3-hour block of time I'd been accustomed to. Guilt set in because I couldn't, try as I might, get back the intimacy I'd had with my heavenly Father. The devil must have rejoiced.
But my gracious Father has taken me through that dessert and into the green pastures once again. I had made praying so difficult. The Lord is now showing me how simple prayer should be. I'd like to share with you what I'm learning:

1. Express your prayer in a breath or two. God doesn't need your ideas. Don't think that you will be heard for your many words. God knows what you need before you ask Him and He sees your heart and the intensity of desire there. (Matthew 6:7-8.)

2. Be real like a child. Children say what's on their minds without pretense. They don't try to appear to be something they are not. God sees how needy and imperfect we are and invites us into His presence to see how gracious, sufficient, compassionate and forgiving He is. (Matthew 18:3-4)

3. Be flexible about where you meet with the Lord. Don't get stuck thinking that you have to pray in a certain part of the house if there are hindrances to that. Besides, sometimes a change of pace is refreshing. Go outside if the weather is nice. (Matthew 14:23)

4. Come as you are with all your sin and disturbing thoughts. Lay them out before the throne of grace and confess your weaknesses and sins to the God of all grace. He is ready to forgive and kindly counsel you in His wisdom. (Isaiah 28:29; James 1:5; 1 John 1:9)

5. Come with all of your distractions. Don't try to ignore or overcome your side-tracked thoughts. Admit to the Lord that you are unable to keep your mind on Him. This is simply one of our weaknesses. Confess it to Him and He will give your mind the rest it needs. (Luke 10:40)

6. Start without expecting anything of yourself. Expect wonderful things from Jesus, but don't be surprised when you disappoint yourself. Just sit down at Jesus' feet like Mary did. That was easy. She didn't come to Him thinking, "Okay, I must spend at least an hour or two here communing with Jesus, otherwise I'm really not a spiritual person." No, she just sat down and the rest is history. (Isaiah 25:1; Luke 10:39)

7. Though number six is important, be flexible about spending more time with Jesus. Perhaps Mary thought, "I have a few moments to spend sitting with Jesus, then I'll need to get up and help Martha." But once Mary was at her Savior's feet, what she heard was so wonderful that she obviously stayed at least longer than Martha thought she should. And Jesus commended her for doing so. (Isaiah 25:1; Luke 10:41-42)

8. That brings us to the next suggestion. Don't worry that things won't get done. The demands of the day will find you, just like Martha found Mary. Of course, I'm not saying to neglect things that are important, but remember what Jesus said to Martha, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." Try to remember the one needful thing when you sit down at Jesus' feet. You'll not be sorry. (Psalm 27:4; Luke 10:39-41)

9. And that brings us to the last idea. Simplify what is temporal so you can choose what is eternal. Don't just simplify prayer, simplify your life. Take what Jesus said to Martha seriously, "...only one thing is needful...". Make prayer easier by ridding your schedule of the unnecessary things that complicate your life and compete with the one thing that is needful (Luke 10:41).

And if simplifying seems way too hard - like it's just one more thing you have to do and don't know where to start - tell the Lord and ask Him to show you where to start and what to do. He will give you guidance. You will get the help you need.

Do you have another idea for simplifying prayer? What things could you eliminate from your schedule to make room for prayer?
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