I have recently been struggling with prayer.
As a young girl, I would rely solely on prayer for the clarity of thought that conversation with God would bring. Now I am in the middle of my senior year of high school and thoughts of my future weigh heavily on my mind. For years I’ve been praying for some sort of straightforward answer to where He wants me to focus my talents. Even as I am placing my fingers on the keys of my keyboard writing these words I feel unsure of a direct route to take in my life. My prayers about my future have slowly ebbed away as the weeks and months go by and I still have no clue what to do with this next year. Those prayers on the future have collided with others about where to take my writing, what to do about my tendencies to worry and overthink, and how to feel joy when all I feel is empty with every monotonous day that goes by.
My prayers lately have been distracted prayers that have little hope left in them God knows my prayers, doesn’t He? So what is the point of praying them over and over? I tell myself that I’m just in the stage of waiting and stillness and that maybe I just need to be patient. But as I wait, the discouragement sinks deeper within my soul and the emptiness takes root and seems to grow so easily in the fertile soil of discouragement. I went into my week of needing to write this with a sense of obligation and weight, because, essentially, January is a time of waiting and listening as the new year starts and we go into another year of preparing ourselves for the Lord’s coming, and all I have been doing is waiting… and waiting… and waiting… straining my ears for some sort of answer to all of my pleading prayers.
And then, one question came to my mind while studying “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life – the Study Guide” by Donald Whitney for school: What is prayer? I’ve always used it as a sort of way to send my complaints, wants, and needs to God. But is that the real reason it has been given to us as a way of communication? Would God create a spiritual discipline and gift like prayer solely for me to use selfishly? So what is prayer?
Prayer is an essential spiritual discipline. Reading God’s love letter (His Word) to us is the primary spiritual discipline and conversing with Him follows closely in importance. Both are vital to cultivating our relationship with God and one element helps us to connect our biblical reading to our prayer lives. That element is meditation. Not meditation like “ohm” but meditation on God’s Word on as a means to try to better understand God and His ways so that I might come to know and love Him more. Psalm 19:14 declares: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” The “words” and “meditation” go together like peanut butter and jelly in this passage of Scripture and they opened my eyes to something I’ve been missing in my own prayer life. I haven’t used the gospel to strengthen my communion with God. I haven’t knit them together as they are made to be. We are called to consider the truth of God carefully and then talk to God with the same amount of dedication and emersion. Prayers become personalized and come alive through meditation on Scripture first.
Prayer is also a direct line to God as we battle on through the struggles and powers of the world. He wants us to seek Him in prayer but with a longing to talk to Him rather than as an obligation or list of complaints. He knows of all our concerns, of course, but He expects us to pray anyway. Jesus prayed (Luke 15:16), and wasn’t He God incarnate? If He needed to pray, then, despite the fact that God knows all that is going on in our lives, shouldn’t we pray? The fact of the matter is that God wants us to speak with Him and voice our meditations and thoughts, not just give Him a laundry list of our lives, our needs, and our wants, but to truly share with Him. He wants us to pray because we need it to grow a more intimate trust relationship with Him.
Just understanding what prayer is didn’t, and still doesn’t, motivate me to dig much deeper into my prayer life. My heart has been struggling not only with what prayer truly is but with understanding the power of prayer. How powerful can prayer be in my life? Why does it matter?
Well, prayer affects every area of life. Prayer can make people godlier. Whenever I am conversing with a certain person or group of people, I find myself starting to speak like them or in agreement with a lot of their theologies, as long as they line up with the Bible. It’s the same when we converse with God. Our minds change gears in a sense and we learn to think more like Him. We develop eyes to see in the light of eternity. Prayer can ultimately change the way we see the world and interpret concepts. If that isn’t power, I don’t know what is!
The second element to the power of prayer is that God answers prayers. As David writes in Psalm 65:2 – “O Thou that hearest prayer, unto Thee shall all flesh come.” God wants to draw us near and hear our prayers. Matthew 7:7-8 reads: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” The Lord is eager to hear and answer our prayers if we take the initiative to ask.
One truth of Scripture is that God always keeps His promises. Would He lead us to pray if He didn’t intend on hearing us and answering?
God doesn’t always answer in the way that we want, the way we anticipate, or in our ideal timeframe. He often answers “yes” or “no”, but sometimes it’s a quiet “not yet”. I am feeling the “not yets” like crazy right now and that is what has come to discourage me. I ask why I can’t receive a firm answer, and still all answers seem silent. Although my mind knows the reason for prayer and the power of prayer, my heart is still craving some sort of resolution. I need something to cling to.
And the answer stares me in the face. If God expects me to pray because He wants to hear my voice and my requests, then why have I suddenly let my prayers ebb away? There’s one excuse that I find myself using and that is: “but I’m being patient.” Being patient is one thing, but being silent and deaf to the calls to pray, that’s being neglectful and disobedient. I should be able to persistently pray as I am being patient. There is nothing that says I cannot do both continually. If God hears my prayers (God wants to hear all that is in our heart, including the personal things), and if God answers, then why should I feel like I can just keep silent and pray once in awhile?
God expects persistent and persevering prayers, and He wants prayer warriors that are preparing for the battle of life’s arena. And as I imagine myself dressed in armor and standing before God’s throne, kneeling in petition, I can see why God wants persistent praying Christians.
Persistent prayer warriors want to know their mission. They desire to know God’s orders and they want to learn how to better be the soldiers of His Kingdom.
So, the questions I find myself asking as I conclude this article are: Am I ready to be one of God’s persevering soldiers, seeking His audience? Am I ready to be in persistent prayer through the times of patience and soft “not yet”? Am I praying with a heart that will obey His Yes and His No?
In my time of emptiness and seemingly endless soul-searching, I find now that prayer is no longer an obligation or a mailing service for me to send my request list to God, but a sword of great power and responsibility that I must discipline myself in today and every day for the length of my life.
If you are struggling in your prayer life, I hope that these words encourage you to persevere. As the new year begins and the wintry weather drags on, I pray that God will encourage you with a renewed look on prayer so that you may grow in a deeper prayer life as well as a more intimate relationship with God. May He bless you and keep you during this season and may you find your trust ever in Him.
The opening image is courtesy of our own Julie Jablonski, of The Cultivating Project.
The image of the open Bible is courtesy of the amazing Aaron Burden at Unsplash.
Sadie Irene Miller is a young writer finishing high school. She is a proud homeschooler and the oldest daughter of five children. Hanging out with family and friends, playing sports, and writing are some of her favorite pastimes. She is also the co-creator of a small writing group in her area. Her goal is to reach others with the love of Christ through her writing and her example.