When I started attending church as a student at Ohio University, I noticed that New Life Assembly of God in Athens, Ohio had some major league pray-ers. I heard men and women who could stand up in front of the church and pray “paragraphs or pages of Biblical pronouncements” that seemed to go straight to heaven. I used to wonder how they could say so much, or use so many Bible verses so well. Wow, I thought, they were praying! But then I was exposed to others who knew how to pray, but would be very uncomfortable if they had to get up in front of people and pray out loud. Even giving a testimony in front of a large crowd was a bit intimidating.
When you step back and think about the types of prayer and the kinds of pray-ers you have heard at home, in your campus group, or in church, it is easy to draw conclusions about what is good and not-so-good praying. How would you evaluate the impact of loud prayers from a Type A person, to the quieter prayers of a contemplative, to the prayer of grace over a meal by your dad, or your little brother praying for bad weather to close school tomorrow?
When you read Scripture, there seem to be a wide variety of examples of prayer, including place, time, occasion, words, tone, individual and/or group led, and even how loud or soft a person prays (think of Jonah in the whale’s belly). But we often feel the pressure that there is only one way that God REALLY hears us. I was reflecting on a conversation with a mentor of mine and he said something that has stuck with me about prayer. He said, “Prayer is being with Jesus.”
When you sit, stand, walk, or lie down today to talk with God – to tell Him how tough your day is going, how much money you need for the next semester, or to deal with a relational conflict, consider what it would mean to be able to simply enjoy being with Jesus.
Read Hebrews 4:14-16.
Think about how refreshing it would be to realize that as you pray, you are inviting Jesus to spend time with you (or is He inviting you?). Imagine the two of you – the Savior of the world, and you, one of His redeemed people – are spending a few minutes together. That’s why the writer to the Hebrews says to “approach the throne of grace with confidence…” because Jesus has made it possible for that sort of access to Him. How does that matter as you talk with Him?
Is it possible that you can stop worrying about what you sound like or what you actually say to Jesus? Try concentrating on what He is interested in, and what He wants from you: time, trust, and honor. Many of us fall into the trap of assuming we need to pray like we have heard others pray – but it is not about performance. It is just you and Jesus talking and listening.
One way to get into prayer is to have some focus. I’d like to suggest you talk with Jesus about the upcoming Olympic Games in London. Every four years the best athletes in the world gather for incredible competition and I believe Jesus is interested in the potential of impacting this event and the people who attend with His gospel. Friends of mine with Athletes in Action are once again going to be there as representatives of Jesus. Go to www.athletesinaction.org, click on the Olympic Project Blog, and read about the Gospel Over Breakfast. Then talk with Jesus. But also consider joining Barbara and me as an Olympic Prayer Partner with AIA. Pass the word too.
Grow devotionally. Prayer is conversation with the King of Kings. Enjoy the ongoing chat.
Love is a verb,