Prayer is essential. It helps form the foundation of our relationship with God while also being healthy for our spirit. If we don't have an active prayer life, our spiritual health becomes as stale as nacho chips that are well past their due date.
Unfortunately, many of us not only lack strong prayer lives, but we also misunderstand prayer. We at times can look at prayer as being a burdensome task that just needs to get done or a practice that needs to be ritualistic and formal, like having to pray a specific number of times a day in a particular setting while satisfying x, y, and z conditions. (Yikes, just describing prayer like that makes me feel tired and bored out of my mind!)
Thankfully, God does not want prayer to be some kind of mind-numbing and chore-like task that requires us to be like robots who are just following an empty routine. That would be inauthentic and superficial and would probably lead us to resent doing what is a beautiful act. Instead, our Heavenly Father intends prayer to be a time – any time in the day – where we share our heart with him through honest communication, bringing us closer to him while nourishing our spirit.
Well, that’s really all you need to know about prayer. Thank you for taking the time to read what will probably be the shortest article I have ever written… Just kidding!
Let’s go deeper. God wants you to express what is weighing on your heart without holding back what you truly think or how you truly feel. Yes, this means not only sharing the good with him but also the bad and the ugly, since this is what it looks like to have authentic communication with him.
After all, God desires to have a close relationship with us – a trust relationship. But, how can you possibly grow in your trust in someone if you can’t be honest with them? You can’t.
Therefore, if you want an authentic relationship with the God of the universe, you must be honest with him, sharing your dreams, desires, doubts, fears, joys, victories, and everything else that makes up your human experience.
Remember, God already knows everything about you and that includes knowing what’s on your heart. He wants you, however, to trust him with it all by sharing it with him, even if it means expressing any anger, disappointments, or doubts you may have towards him or others.
Hey, It’s okay. Trust me. I’ve wrestled with God, and even shouted and cursed at him many times before. And, you know what? He can take anything I or anyone else can throw at him on our worst days because, well, he’s the God of the universe who is supremely patient and unfathomably merciful! Furthermore, he will never love us any less for being completely honest with him.
Secondly, I can honestly say that I’ve grown closer to God and will continue to grow closer to him as long as I decide to be real with him, no matter what that looks like.
Please don’t forget, God wants you to be close to him, so he prefers honest communication with you, even when you are irritated because, at least, you are there with him working things out, well within the grasp of his secure and loving arms and within earshot of hearing him tell you I love you.
The other thing you must know about having honest communication with God is that it doesn’t always have to be done in the same way, over and over again. Remember, God created each of us unique, with our own passions, gifts, and backgrounds. He wants us to express our hearts to him in ways that suit us, even if it may be different from how other Christians pray to him.
I know for sure I pray in ways that are different from how others pray. For instance, I journal a lot throughout my day, and, often, I turn my journal writing into a conversation with God. I’ll be writing, spilling my thoughts and emotions about my experiences or about what I plan to complete in the day and then transition into addressing Jesus directly by praising him or asking for help or clarity on a matter.
Hey, communication doesn’t only have to be verbal. It can also be done through the pen (or keyboard strokes) or in a variety of other ways. Just look at King David! He would write poetry, play the lyre, and sing to God when he communicated with him. And, interestingly enough, God stated that David was a man after his heart.
“And when he had removed him, he raised up David to be their king, of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’” - Acts 13:22
Hmm, perhaps, at least in part, David was said to be a man after God’s heart because he wasn’t afraid to honestly express himself to his Father according to his gifts and abilities. So, if you feel like strumming the strings on your guitar, or taking out your paint brushes, or if you feel like breaking out some dance moves to express your heart to God, then do so! He’ll never reject or shame you for desiring to speak to him in your own unique way.
Here are some other ways you can pray to God:
During work or throughout your day, you can give him your thoughts and have an internal dialogue with him. I actually know of a guy who drives a forklift all day and silently prays to God throughout his whole entire work shift. You can pray to God throughout your day-to-day activities such as when you’re grocery shopping, sitting in waiting rooms, traveling to and from a destination, eating a meal, etc. Remember, God is omnipresent, so there’s no space he’s absent from. Don’t feel like you need a particular place or setting to talk to him, for he’s the most accessible conversation partner you’ll ever have! (of course, you may want to be cautious about talking out loud to God in public, for people might think you’re crazy. Thankfully, he does not need to hear your audible voice to hear your heart.)
You can go for prayer walks. I know plenty of people (myself included) who talk to God when they go for nature walks or when they take a stroll through their neighborhood. In fact, when I go for walks, I often talk to God and express myself with my hands (I’m Italian; it’s what we do) because I believe he’s there, dwelling in me by the Holy Spirit. He’s just beyond what the eye can see, an invisible, constant presence.
Most importantly, don’t forget that communication is not a one-way street. You must also take the time to be silent and listen to the person you are conversing with. This includes listening to God during and after the time you have shared with him what’s on your heart by reading his word and being attentive to his voice and his direction. You will be amazed how many times God brings passages of Scripture to your mind, directly linked to what you are sharing with him when you take the time to be still and wait for him to speak to your heart, mind, and spirit.
So, there you have it, a brief but important breakdown of some things you need to know about prayer. It is an act that is vital for our spiritual lives and our relationship with God, and it doesn’t require us to fulfill a long list of conditions based on ritual or tradition. As long as you believe and trust in Jesus Christ, you can talk with your Father in heaven anywhere and anytime — an honest time of sharing between you and him – for he is the perfect Father, who is always loving and always has time for his children.
Practice his presence daily, and invite the Holy Spirit to teach you how to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).