How to talk to God. Catchy title. Engaging. Relevant. But how do you sum this up in a blog post? Or even a four-week message series? The impossibility of such an answer leaves me somewhere between frozen and grateful.
If talking to God looked the same for everyone, every time then I would most certainly treat it as another box to check on my to-do list and it would, in no way, change my circumstances nor my heart. If it were a generic, one-size-fits-all prescription I would flounder and drown in boredom, routine, and disappointment. The fact that Bible spends so much more time simply admonishing us to pray rather than giving us step-by-steps on what that looks like, frees me from societal interpretations unrealistic, unattainable expectations for prayer. But at the same time, such freedom in mode can lead me to less action and counterfeit commitment.
But in his sovereignty, God left us with a framework and a starting point for prayer. “…Hallowed by thy name.” (Matt 6:9) Ultimately, and above all, God’s glory should get our highest priority. And even in glorifying him, we need his help. He alone powers our prayers. Answers to prayer do not hinge on our faith, nor our obedience, nor even our fervency and desperation. They rest only with God. Praying does not make me Christian.
I pray to communicate with God while acknowledging that He is the only means by which it all transpires.
If there is one thing that I feel like I’m good at in the whole Christianity thing, it’s arguing with God. My problems with God often come right where faith and logic fail to meet. And I’m at a particular juncture in my life where I need to make immensely consequential decisions – at least it feels that way in my limited, finite view of things. In fact, I feel my next move is something that I have been arguing with God about for years.
I pride myself on my reasoning abilities. I lay my “but God’s” out before him in order. Emotions only serve to impassion my fact-based arguments before him. All the reasons why I can’t or the things I think he should do to/in my circumstances stand in formation, ready for battle.
But faith comes after the arguing and ultimately deciding to trust God’s way, regardless that trusting God seems to make the least amount of logical sense.
I’ve felt him leading in an ever tightening circle to this new adventure in my life for a long, long time. Most days I spend more like Jonah with my fingers in my ears shouting, Lalalala, I can’t hear you! than I do like David, praying for a humble and contrite heart and for God’s glory to shine in my circumstances. But God is merciful and patient and still works through my repeated failures and slow learning and half-hearted prayer.
So many times I have cried out to God to show me what’s next, but now I have also begun to ask him to help me learn contentment in my current situation. My heart burns and my soul pants. Nothing else can satisfy, but God. I’ve tried so many other ways. But like David, I am learning to pray hear me, answer me, save me, transform me. Meet my needs in the here and now, but transform my heart so that it is undivided.
Every time I have wrestled and travailed with God, I have come away changed. Even when I have been stripped bare and raw and broken by these arguments, I have found peace in the authenticity that struggle brings.
Pleading and stating my case uncovers my vulnerabilities and my motives.
God is big enough to handle my doubt and strong enough to love me through my lashing out.
My railings show the depth of his unending and unchanging mercy. And he brings about the circumstances that he deems best but simultaneously brings me to a place where I can meet them like a reed bending in the wind, full of life, still reaching ever upwards.
But more than just calling out in my desperation, the Word lead us to appeal to God from his attributes. I stop and ponder what he has done in the past because remembrance of his steadfastness fuels my anxious prayers. Answer, because of your faithfulness. Hear me, because of your goodness. Save me, because of your grace.
And so I continue to pray, because it doesn’t end when God finally leads me to one decision. Each day doubt starts fresh so I must run and bow again to Him whose ways are higher than mine and who has his glory and my good in mind. That means not giving up and not giving in – even when the hard part stretches on endlessly ahead of me.
Constant prayer is a posturing, a complete reliance on something other than myself, a reaching out in supplication to the Creator of all things, and an absolute and utter necessity. Rejoice. Lean in. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all things. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thes 5:24)0