I am doing a new Bible study with the women at church on Friday mornings. It is "Live a Praying Life" by Jennifer Kennedy Dean. This study is rocking my world.
I have known of God my whole life, but have been truly following Him for 28 years. I grew up in the Bible belt where I was told that to follow God I needed to have a prayer list and a morning prayer time to show my love for God and my desire to be a good soldier of the Lord. I can remember the long lists that I would take out each day and pray through. Before long I lost interest in it as it was so monotonous for me. It was not a "God birthed" burden of prayer, but a "duty birthed". I think of those in other faiths who go through their rituals of prayer in order to fulfill a requirement of their faith. That is how my prayer list was to me. It was a ritual to fulfill a "man imposed" requirement.
I lived many years as a Pharisee bound to the law, performance and striving for God. Slowly but surely He is restoring me to a relationship with Him that is out of response instead of obligation. One of those areas has been prayer. After years of the ritual of my "prayer list" I was burned out in prayer, so much so that I would even say if you asked me that my prayer life stunk.
God began speaking to me about prayer at different intervals during this purging of the law He had me in. I remember once just sitting in my bathtub crying. The sobs were coming from some deep place inside me. Life had been hard and I was so weary. I was struggling to hang onto my faith and believe in His goodness. Everything was falling apart around me.
I couldn't hear His voice, I couldn't find His embrace. I knew in my mind that He would never leave me or forsake me, but I couldn't "feel" Him. As I sat in the tub, overwhelmed by emotion I could not speak a word. I couldn't even "cry out" to Him for help. There were no "prayers". All I could do was sob and groan. And He came, like I had never known, He came.
Jennifer Kennedy Dean says from Psalm 139, "When a need or desire is so deep in me that I do not even have a sentence to say and all I have is a groan, God knows it all. When we don't have anything but a groan, God has seen it all articulated."
I will never forget that night and how He came for me. Without uttering a word He rescued me. It was a new place of freedom for me. I didn't have to say all the right words to be delivered. God saw my groans and sobs articulated and He came and brought me out into His embrace. I was changed forever.
Prayer is a word that has been distorted in the mind of many Christians. We have come to make it look and be a certain way. What I am beginning to understand is that prayer can be all sorts of things, from worship, to listening, to groans, to words. My groans and sobs are the prayers of my heart. It is astounding.
One time when I was asking God about all this He talked to me about my Lydia. She's an affectionate one who always has loved being nearby, freely giving hugs. She would flow in and out of my room throughout the day. She loved to sit on my lap in the rocking chair, her head upon my chest, listening as I talked on the phone. Being a hugger, she would often walk in my room just to give me a hug, then walk out. There were times she would come in wanting to talk about herself or others. And sometimes she would need to know how much I loved her. In and out of my room she would flow, doing whatever was on her heart to do.
Jennifer Kennedy Dean says "There is an underflow of prayer in every believer. When Jesus came to take residence in you, He's began to pray in and through you. He's always praying in you. There is an undercurrent of prayer active in you. Not because of how good you are but because of how good He is. He's the one motivating it. He's the one initiating it. As you come to know this you will get tapped into Jesus praying in you."
Jesus is always praying in and through me. It's not about me figuring out all the right words to say. it's about letting Him flow out of me, whether through groans, worship, sobs, hugs or words. Just like my little girl, prayer is not about saying all the right words or setting aside a specific time each day that is required. It's about tapping into what He is doing inside me. That which He wants to do through me, He will put on me. He's the initiator and the motivator, burdening me for the things that He is burdened for. Whether getting up into His lap and listening while He talks, or telling Him what is on my heart, prayer is responding to the undercurrent of prayer that is already active in me, because He inhabits me. Now that is freedom.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
©copyrighted 2008 by Julie L. Todd