When I first began seeking God in my life, I wasn’t really sure how to pray to him. I joined a team at church that prayed over anyone who needed it- and you guys, the things I heard. The hearts and lives I saw changed…it was unbelievable.
It felt awkward to talk to God in the beginning. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it. But through practice, I developed a relationship with him. He became like a friend and father to me. I stay in constant communication with him throughout the day.
There is a difference between praying and establishing a relationship with God. That difference was made known to me about two years ago when I was pregnant with my son.
I was about four months pregnant with Joseph when my husband got a late night call that completely changed our world within a matter of minutes. His cousins, (ages 1, 7, and 11) needed a place to stay for a night or two. The police officer asked if we could go get them. We immediately said yes and went to pick them up from a retail store at 11 o’clock at night.
At the time, we had no idea they would end up staying with us for 2 months. Overnight, we gained the responsibility of caring for three children. We were thrown into the parenting world, having no clue how to go about it. These children were hurting. They craved attention and love, and I wasn’t sure how to give it. Sometimes they acted out and back-talked in order to get the attention they wanted, and I didn’t know how to deal. All of our lives were completely turned upside down without even a warning.
I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. No idea how to respond when they needed discipline, no idea how to establish boundaries and rules with kids who had never had them. I had no idea how to love them the way they needed. I prayed and prayed for God to give me patience and show me how to be there for them.
The one year old didn’t take to me right away. She was very reserved and shy. We didn’t have many toys for her, and the bassinet she was sleeping in was too small. To be around these children, and see how closed off they were and knowing their situation at home- it broke my heart. I wanted to be there for them, but I felt like I was coming up short every single day.
I was strong during the day, giving patience when I needed to, but often went to bed crying at night.
One particular night, after having a hard time with the middle child, I went into my room, collapsed on my bed and began sobbing. “Lord, what do I do? How do I respond to her with love and not impatience and anger? I don’t know what to do!”
A vision came to my mind. I was in a deep ocean, wave after wave coming over me. I was drowning and calling out for help. It felt so real. I couldn’t catch my breath; I could almost taste the salt from the water. And just as another wave was about to wash over me, a strong hand grabbed my arm and pulled me out.
The Lord sat me in his lap. I curled up in the fetal position, my head on his chest, his beautiful wings wrapped around me. And in that moment, a peace unlike no other washed over me. My heart calmed, my mind was clear, I was with God.
Prayer, worship, and constant communication- all of these help establish a relationship with God. However, you cannot have just one of them without the other two.
When I think of prayer, the other word that comes to mind is: request. Prayer is how we make our requests known to God.
Philippians 4:6 says:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
God wants us to come to him with our troubles. He is not surprised by our requests or our circumstances- He’s God. He already knows the things we need before we even ask- it’s the communication and relationship with us that he wants. He wants us to trust him and to think of him. He wants us to regard him as our closest friend and Father.
I remember talking to my mom during a rough time in her life. We were on the phone and she was describing a hardship that she’d just gone through, and I asked her “Have you taken this to God? Do you talk with him about it?”
She responded: “I don’t really know how to pray to him.”
I know that prayer can seem unnatural at first. It feels weird, almost like we’re talking to ourselves. But with enough practice and repetition, it soon feels like you’re talking with a friend. And you are. You are talking to a God that loves you, that wants to be a part of your everyday life. Every moment, he is with you. You are his child and he looks on you with awe and compassion. He laughs with us, cries with us, holds us when are broken…He is our truest friend.
Through prayer, worship, and constant communication, we begin to see this side of God. We begin to see that he is not some far away deity watching over us as if we were ants under a dome. He is very near. Close enough that when he wants to speak to us, he can do so through a gentle whisper (1 Kings 9:12).
Let’s delve a little deeper into these three ways of communicating with the Lord:
- The Bible clearly says that we are to begin our prayer with thanksgiving (Phil 4:6). Before we make our needs known to him, we are to thank him for who he is, what he has done, how far he’s brought us, etc. This is not for his benefit, but for our own.
Coming to God first with thanksgiving allows us to re-position our hearts. It allows us to shed the anxiety or sadness over our current situation, and reminds us of who he is. It reminds us of the blessings he’s already bestowed upon us. Whether it is the fact that you are alive and breathing for another day, or maybe you’ve just gotten over a sickness-Every person on Earth has something to be thankful for.
- Use prayer to declare who he is. Pile this on top of your thanksgiving. Declaring how great our God is, how his love for us is unending- it serves as a reminder of the One who is in control. We begin to remember past afflictions and how he brought us out of darkness before. As we declare his greatness, our hearts go from being troubled to joyful.
“You are a good God. I know you care about me…I know you are close and have my best interests in mind…”
“You love me so, I am so thankful you have my name written on your palm and that you will not forget me…” (Isaiah 49:16)
“You have rescued me before, I know you will again…”
- Bring to him both the big and the small. Trust him with every Lately, I’ve been praying that my son will have enough confidence and courage to take his first steps. I know that Joseph is able to walk; he’s just a very cautious boy and likes to take his time with things. So, I’ve added this to my prayer. It’s small, and my heart isn’t troubled about it…I just know that God already knows what’s on my mind, and to keep that from him would feel like I don’t trust him with the little things in my heart. He cares about the big and the small. If it’s something weighing on our hearts, he wants to hear about it. He’s our Father, after all. If we had a child that was worried over a little thing, (something so small that it may seem insignificant to us) we would still want that child to come to us with it, right? We would want them to trust us with their thoughts and concerns, right? Bring it to him. Lay it into his hands and allow him to carry it for you.
- Sitting and listening to what the Lord has to say to us is just as important as praying to him. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in asking him for things, we forget to listen to that gentle whisper of assurance.
Take some time at the end of your prayer to just sit and be with the Lord. Ask him: “What can I do for you today? What is something you want to speak into me today, Lord? How can I best serve you?”
“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.” Psalm 98:4
“I will sing to the Lord all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” Psalm 104:33
“Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” Psalm 147:1
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord…” Ephesians 5:19
Our worship takes us to heavenly places. It allows us to draw ourselves outward -out of our troubles, thoughts, worries, or hectic, busy days -and allows us to set our mind on the One above and how great he is. I can be in the worst mood, but singing a worship song puts things back into perspective. My focus goes from stress to remembering how great my God is. Praise puts our problems in context.
When we sing worship to the Lord, we join a heavenly chorus and our praise is all the more powerful. The effect it has on our own hearts is all the more powerful.
“But what does it say? ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,’ that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim…” Romans 10:8
Constant communication is what brings us intimacy with God. He tells us to bring our petitions to him, but he longs for us to include him in every aspect of our day. We have to learn to see him and his beauty in our everyday lives.
Thank him before you even get out of bed in the morning. I tell him ‘Good morning, Lord! Thanks for waking me up for another day!’.
If you see something beautiful or wondrous, talk to him about it. For me, it’s birds. I love bird-watching, so anytime I get to see a new species or a huge hawk flying across my yard, I thank him for that small gift. It brings me pleasure to watch his creation move about in my own front yard, and I want to acknowledge that I see him in it. “Wow, Lord. That was so amazing!”
If something makes you laugh, share it with him. Imagine his happiness too. He delights in his children! He wants us to share the good and the bad.
If something troubles you, tell him about it. Actually, just as I’m writing this, my child is refusing to take his afternoon nap. We’ve been struggling with this for weeks. We are finally over the sleep regression, but it’s this afternoon nap that I cannot get back to normal. I’m trying a different approach this week, and a few minutes ago, I had to pause, go into his room and lay him down. It’s so frustrating. As I was walking back out, I exclaimed to God: “Why is this not working?! What am I supposed to do?”
The more you communicate with God, the more comfortable you feel in sharing all of your emotions with him- not just the happy ones, but the frustrating ones too. He is God. He can handle your craziness. Talking to him reminds me that I’m not alone. It reminds me that I have a constant companion. And you do too. He’s there whether you acknowledge him or not, but you’ll get so much more if you do.
Prompt: What is prayer you’ve been keeping from God because you feel it’s too small or insignificant? What are some ways you can use prayer and communication to acknowledge God’s presence in your life this week? I encourage you to begin your mornings with thanksgiving and chatting with God…even if it’s in your mind (For me, it’s usually while my son has his first cup of milk for the day. Other days, I chat with him while doing dishes at the sink.) He’s waiting for connection with you, no matter what season you are in.
See you next time, friends.