Discovering the heart of prayer
After almost 50 years as a Christian I am discovering more and more fully that prayer is about relationship more than it is about anything else.
I used to think that prayer had to do with finding a way to talk God into giving me what I need or what someone I care about needs, or persuading God to do what I think needs to be done. I would bring to God my list of things He should do. I would plead with Him. I was careful to use the words and phrases that were supposed to earn His favor. And, more often than I wish, I was disappointed with prayer.
But I am beginning to recognize that I was improperly focused on the things I wanted to get from God instead of focusing on getting God Himself.
I know that the former dynamic is not what I want in my marriage. If I got a bunch of “things” from my wife but didn’t actually get my wife, I would be greatly disappointed. If I got from her a clean house, and nicely prepared meals, and washed clothes but no heart-to-heart relationship, I might as well hire a maid. What I want more than anything else in my marriage is a soul-mate, a life-partner, a meaningful, intimate, loving relationship.
Perhaps in my younger (less mature) years as a Christian, I wanted God to do for me the things I wanted done, but I am finding now that what I want more than anything else is a Soul-Partner, a “Shepherd” who will walk beside me through the toughest times of my life—even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Someone whom I know will hold my tears in His heart (or in His bottle as Psalm 56:8 says), Someone who knows me thoroughly and loves me fully anyway, Someone I can pour out my heart to and who pours out His heart to me.
Jeffrey D. Imbach puts it this way: “Prayer is essentially the expression of our heart longing for love. It is not so much the listing of our requests but the breathing of our own deepest request, to be united with God as fully as possible.”
C.S. Lewis suggests, “The prayer preceding all prayers is ‘May it be the real me who speaks. May it be the real Thou that I speak to.” …Only God Himself can let the bucket down to the depths in us….. The most blessed result of prayer would be to rise thinking ‘But I never knew before; I never dreamed….’”
Larry Crabb adds, “Missionary and evangelist E. Stanley Jones wrote, ‘The first thing in prayers is to get God. If you get Him, everything else follows. Allow God to get at you, to invade you, to take possession of you. He then pours His very prayers through you. They are His prayers—God-inspired, and hence, God-answered.
“‘Prayer’s like the fastening of the cup to the wounded side of a pine tree to allow the resin to pour into it. You are now nestling up into the side of God—the wounded side, if you will—and you allow His grace to fill you up. You are taking in the very life of God.’”
This is what I want more than anything else now in prayer. More than getting things from God. I want to get more of God. I am discovering the beauty and the miracle of what Mother Teresa said, “Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of Himself.”