August 18, 2010
Last Sunday we had an incredible time of worship, and by that I mean the whole service. I partnered with my good friend and colleague Steve Springsted. He preached a message on The Lord’s Prayer and I helped craft the other elements of the service around the message. A highlight for me was the beautiful way Steve encouraged us to grow in our practice of prayer as an issue of desire and not duty. Prayer is all about our relationship with God and a means to grow closer to him. Now I find myself waking up in the morning with a fresh desire to meet with God. Of course, meeting with God without distractions is shortly lived with a family of 3 young kids (adding a 4th today!) and a farm to care for. So I have my red Adirondack chairs on my front porch and I try to get a few minutes there, with a fresh cup of coffee, to read God’s Word and pray before one of my kids comes to hop up on my lap for a good morning cuddle. Then I have a 3-way conversation with God and with my kid on my lap, using the pauses between conversation to thank him for my precious children and pray for their day. Other mornings I spend an hour in the grove before the sun rises, spraying weeds and talking with the Lord. I use that time mainly to pray for others, family, friends, missionaries, coworkers and those I know who are in need. Wednesday mornings, I leave before my family is awake and slip away to this coffee shop to spend my time studying, writing and having an occasional conversation with others. I call this my listening time where I pause in my busy life to gather my thoughts and seek leading from the Lord. I treasure this time deeply and try to never miss it. We must never forget that listening is a crucial part of conversation and so it is with prayer.
One of the biggest periods of growth in prayer life came when I was 26 years old. I realized that I spent most of the day with no thoughts of God and no conversation with him. I felt alone with a big sense of inadequacy as I faced the challenge of some difficult classes of students in my job as a math teacher. At some point I decided that I needed to learn to pray without ceasing, one of the commands of Scripture: “pray continually;” (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV) I asked God to help me remember to be mindful of his presence with me at all times during the day. I wanted my days to become a continual conversation with the Lord. Why not take advantage of the fact that he is always with me? He answered that prayer and soon I found myself shooting off short sentence prayers throughout the day, often in the form of the word, “Help!”, and other times for the kid who was challenging me at the moment. My friend Toby blogged about this the other day and hit the mark when it comes to living a life of prayer. I appreciated his thoughts in his blog, A Man For Christ.
Another sweet growth of prayer in my life was learning to pray with my wife, Julie. During my difficult year of teaching, our first year of marriage, we would take 1 or 2 walks a week where we would include God in our conversation. We would pray out loud as we walked and sometimes talk to each other in the middle of our prayer. (Kind of like I do with my kids now.) Now most of my prayer time with Julie is just before we drift off to sleep together. Then of course there are the times of crisis or concern where we pause in the middle of the day to lift our requests to the Lord.
Do I feel good at prayer? Not at all. I feel much like a beginner, like a little child learning how to talk to his daddy. I have much yet to learn of Him and a long way to go toward maturity. Still God invites me to come and delights to be with me. Another thing is that my heroes of the faith, men of God who were and are greatly used by him, have a common characteristic among them. They were and are men who pray. I want to be a man like that! I want to know God like that! And so by God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit I keep pressing in that direction.