November 9, 2011

Prayer Pleasing [Part 1]

There's a clip on YouTube of Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love) sharing how her creative process goes. Essentially, she has to make sure the chaos is blocked off so that she can work in quiet and allow creativity to flow. She also wakes up early in the morning. Now, let me tell you! I've longed to become a morning person since college. Whenever I wake up and do an early devotion, I feel so at peace and more prepared to take on the world. My thoughts flow so much better. It's as if the world is still sleeping while God and I have our quiet time. It's beautiful. However, the early morning sessions don't happen nearly as much as I wish they would.

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In the second installation of the Matthew 6 series (check out the first one here), let's take a closer look at prayer. Matthew 6:5-13 show how God feels about our prayers to Him (pt.1) and He also teaches us how to pray (pt. 2 that I'll share tomorrow). Prayer is the direct connection to God, allowing us to share cares and concerns with Him. You don't have to be prostrate or in a kneeling position to pray either. There are many times when I'm driving, sitting at my desk at work, or laying in bed while in communication with God. Prayer is simply a conversation. 
I have a friend who once shared that God helps her pick out clothes sometimes. I looked at her as if she'd lost her mind. She proceeded to explain an instance where she literally didn't know what to wear. She felt God showing her the right outfit but she kept trying on other stuff and feeling unsatisfied. Eventually, she went back to what she heard God telling her to wear. As she headed out the door, she felt the Lord tell her to grab a sweater. She thought that was a bit extra but grabbed the sweater  anyway and headed out the door. Come to find out, she ended up needing the sweater and wouldn't have thought to bring it if God hadn't told her. God speaks to us in different ways but we need to have the channel of communication - prayer- constantly open. Here's what Matthew 6: 5-13 (The Message Version) has to say about prayer: 

"And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. (7) The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. "

Prayers in corporate worship can be very interesting. Some people pray with words so big that it's honestly difficult to say amen at the end because I have no idea what the prayer was for!!  It's almost as if some Christians are at higher rankings than others based on how many oversized words can fit in their vernacular. Expand your vocabulary. It's a beautiful skill. However, it's important to remember who we are truly speaking and as learned in verses 1-4, He is not fooled by our show. It's not about how much you say "Father God" in one sentence of your public prayer. How often do you commune with the Father God when you're in private?
My mother used to wake up early and go into the laundry room for devotion. She loved heat and the laundry room was the warmest place in the house. It also had a nice couch for her to be comfortable. It was that early morning time which she used in order to pray and be alone with God for a couple hours. You don't have to wake up and commune with God for hours on end. If what you have is 15 minutes to pray and meditate on a verse, be faithful with that. As your relationship grows, you'll yearn to make more time to spend with Him. But God says keep it simple. 

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I knew someone who used to memorize verses in her devotion so that she could brag about all the verses she knew. She really believed she was a prayer warrior. Talk about TOTALLY missing the point! Prayer time should be exactly that: prayer time.  It's not the time for you to cram for a bragging session of "Who knows the Bible better than me?" It's about building the relationship. You can't "one up" your peers on how much you know God better. Every person's walk is totally different. Focus on you and God and be vulnerable with Him. Holy water, prosperity songs, a selfish spirit: those are all gimmicks that God deplores. You wouldn't say, "Hey God! I want to pretend like I'm at least associated with you and your power to other Christians so I'm gonna use our hangout time to practice my lines that I'll use when I meet people in the streets." The gimmicks will get you nowhere. The wrong spirit will get you nowhere. There's nothing better than being authentic in your devotion time with God. Be real with God. There are times when I'm on shaky ground and am totally confused as to what God is doing. There are times when I'm furious with God. I tell Him. He knows my heart and he knows that I'm not trying to be disrespectful. Even though I'm feeling hurt by Him, I still would like to keep the line of communication open. Some Christians might disagree with that approach but God says to come as you are.  So I do *shrug*. 

So, remember: 
1. Stop the theatrics and gimmicks. They're a huge turn-off to God. 
2. Find time to be alone with Him.
3. Even when you're not alone, you can still keep the line open. Pray without ceasing. 
4. Be authentic and vulnerable within the relationship. 
Pt. 2 of this lesson will pick up tomorrow with the Lord's prayer. The Lord's Prayer needs it's own post :)

When do you communicate with God the most? Do you have a certain time of day when you prefer to have alone time with Him? 

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