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Spiritual Growth

The Listening Component of Prayer

Prayer is a gift God gave us, not because He needed to know the desires of our hearts, but because He knew what opening that line of communication could mean for us.   In Matthew 26:39, we find an example of this as we read about Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, contemplating his soon approaching death.  In His sorrow, He “…fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

In that moment, Christ showed us that accepting God’s will meant that we would first have to face it, and that may not always be the most pleasant experience.  God gave us prayer as a place to express the most pure and real versions of what is happening inside of our souls.  We have the opportunity not only to be honest with God, but more importantly to be honest with ourselves. If we believe that God is omnipotent, then God already knows what is happening in our hearts.  That doesn’t make the need for communication any less important.

Honesty in Prayer

So what is there to gain from honesty in prayer?  Christ revealing His humanity under the weight of what was to come showed me that Christ needed to say that prayer way more than God needed to hear it.  There is power in choosing to release our most private emotions in a spiritual capacity, allowing our souls the freedom to participate in the declaration of truth, commitment and honesty.  Christ would not have been able to face the cross, if He couldn’t acknowledge the burdens within his own heart first.  He understood that prayer is not just about asking for something and waiting to see what happens.  It’s also an exercise in listening.  Prayer requires that we learn how to hear God’s voice so we can recognize His will… and that is the ultimate act of spiritual discernment.

If we only use prayer as a way to communicate with God, we miss out on God communicating with us. I once read that prayer is when we speak to God and meditation is when He talks back.  So I started meditating.  I spent time in prayer, putting my requests, gratitude, and burdens out into the spiritual atmosphere and then I would sit silently in meditation, asking for God to enter into my soul so I could better understand His will. After a few weeks, something interested started to happen.  The way I prayed started changing.

Think of praying as an outward reflection of internal character. When we are being selfish, our prayers are selfish.  When we are hurt, our prayers are often angry, sarcastic, and melodramatic.  When we are happy, our prayers are filled with gratitude.  This type of prayer life is troubling because it makes for a volatile relationship.  Our love of God is dependent upon what is happening at that exact moment in our lives.  If we shouldn’t treat other people that way, then we shouldn’t choose this as a time to make God the exception.

Our Prayer Life

A sign of a healthy prayer life is not in us counting the amount of prayers that are answered, but the way in which our prayers change our outlook on life.  This signals that something positive is happening on the inside that is making its way to the outside.  We are able to express gratitude in what feels like the worst of circumstances.  We can see God’s hand moving in the world around us, despite the challenges we may face.  We share God’s love with others, whether our prayers have been answered or not, because our joy cannot be contained. We are honest with God. We don’t keep secrets. We don’t hold back. We become consistent in our communication with Christ because we are mirroring His consistency with us.  And that consistency does not come in the form of receiving blessings, it comes from the reality of building character.

I will be the first to admit my “prayer life” has a troubled past.  It’s been inconsistent, self-centered, and a serious source of contention.  When in doubt, it is easy for us to feel dismayed. We forget that when God petitions us to ask, seek, and knock, He means Him, not anything or anyone else.  If we ask God where He is, if we seek Him with all of our heart, if we knock on His door and ask Him to enter our lives, He will make sure to take care of us, beyond measure.  He will not deny what is good for us, we just have to know that what He will provide may not always match up with what we desire. And that’s for the best. I’m learning more and more to be thankful for the no’s.

Does God Really Hear Me?

I’ve often been asked, does God really hear my prayers? Does He understand my concerns? Will He answer? Yes, He always answers.  I no longer believe in the philosophy that there are periods of silence when He doesn’t answer.  His responses may not make sense to us, it may be that He withholds what we want from us, but He never not answers.  When we feel like we are in a waiting period, my suggestion would be to stop worrying and start listening. The Bible tells us not to be anxious for good reason.  More than likely, God’s trying to redirect your path. He’s just waiting for you to take notice.

Creating Your Personalized Prayer Life

So how do you build a prayer life worth having? Simple. You start and then you commit.  Carve out some time every day to communicate with God.  Most importantly, carve out time to listen.  With all of the distractions in our lives, listening becomes difficult.  Spending quiet time with God when you aren’t thinking about relationships, school, work, or family problems can be quite challenging, but the results are rewarding. So sit back, close your eyes, and ask God to enter your soul.  Just be ready for what He has to say.  You may not always like it, but you’ll always need it.

What is most important about prayer for you? Leave your comments below.

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