CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD

[Taken from a new book to be released in the future – ‘What Is In Your Heart? A Call to Wholehearted Following’]

I mentioned a friend of mine earlier in this book. His issue was based on his perceived lack of time required to cultivate a wholehearted relationship with God. Busyness, tiredness, distractions and the complications of our daily lifestyle block out solitude, silence and prayer. It seems that only full-time and salaried Christian leaders have the opportunity to take time out to really pray. We would probably also include retired people who appear to have more time available for prayer than most other people. Having time on our side seems to make conversations with God much more likely. But if we read through the Gospel narratives Jesus leads the way by demonstrating a different standard and a better way. “But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.” [1] It seems that frequent withdrawal from the norm or usual activities of the day was the way of Jesus to spend time alone with His Father. I have come to see that Jesus will not require anything of us, His people, that He has not already been through Himself. So, we need to find a way to pray in an unhurried and relaxed way even though we may be caught up in a maelstrom of activity we call life. If you want to understand what it means to pray, we can learn from Jesus.

THE STATUS QUO

You will understand the reason for Jesus slipping away to a solitary place to pray as people made demands on Him daily and crowds followed His every journey. However, some of you are probably thinking. Jesus must surely fall into the category of being in ministry. He had time on His hands with no apparent deadlines or schedules. You, however, will find yourself rising from sleep, waking the family, making breakfast and ensuring that each family member leaves on time and fully equipped for the day ahead. A very full day, a trip to the supermarket on the way home, a meal together and everything in between and by that stage the cycle begins over again. It can appear relentless with no change on this conveyor belt of activity. The best we can offer during this demanding week is a quick and possibly desperate prayer and then off we go into a world of distraction, noise and seduction. But there is good news for us all. He will show you the way forward through this dilemma just as He promised He would.
Let’s be realistic here. If we as disciples of Jesus follow a rigid regime of busyness and routine without making time to be alone with Him, we will never get to the place of being still, drawing breath and enjoying His Presence. Prayer is the slow cultivation of growth which bears fruit in season for each of us. We are called to live by faith in God and this walk begins in the circumstances in which we find ourselves today. As Dallas Willard says, “Prayer is talking with God about what we are doing together.”

A MODERN-DAY PARABLE

We were visiting some very dear friends of ours recently and the topic of prayer arose as the result of a question. I asked if they felt that coming aside to be alone with the Lord to pray was a necessity for our well-being as disciples of Jesus? Our friend responded wisely to my question as we discussed the difference between talking to the Lord while engaged in daily activities like work and driving, paying bills and cooking meals, helping our children with homework and shopping for food. In contrast to these activities, there are additional times when we draw aside specifically to pray – alone. Just as Jesus did by coming aside to a solitary place. Our friend likened it to their marriage. There are times throughout the day that this couple chats with each other while busy with their own various chores and activities. But he then went on to say that they would definitely agree there were other times when he and his wife would sit down together to discuss specific issues. My observations in this short but very helpful analogy highlight a couple of key factors about prayer and relationship. Firstly, praying throughout the day is essential for ongoing wisdom and revelation in whatever we are doing. It involves God in the whole of our life. But, coming aside to be alone with God will become a priority when we realise, He wants to be with us even more than we want to spend time with Him.
It is both good and helpful to talk to the Lord throughout the day whatever we are busy with. The gift of the Spirit’s love language is wonderfully helpful during these times while He is praying within us with deep longings when we cannot find human words. Our love relationship with Jesus provides a way for prayerful conversation. May I encourage you. Let your aim in prayer be to regain holy simplicity. Holy because this sacred gift of prayer brings us into His realm and simplicity because our use of language must be completely open and honest, childlike yet confident with God. Prayer requires a recovery of personal, relational and revelatory communication in both listening to God and speaking with God. We read in Matthew as Jesus teaches His disciples the how of praying, “But when you pray, go into your own room, shut your door and pray to your Father privately.” [2]  In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us – that we become men and women of prayer, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough.

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” [3]

MAKING THE CHANGES

So, I am hoping that by now the Spirit of God is opening your heart and impressing upon you that prayer is not about a mechanical exercise. It is more about friendship, intimacy and conversation, openness and vulnerability, listening and speaking. It is two way – an act of love! As we consider the daily pressures of running a business or home and for some both, let us ask ourselves this question – who is running my life? In order to fulfil the circle of activity that we run every day, sometimes on empty, there needs to be clarity in our thinking, wisdom in the way we think and grace in our hearts. We must confess this need in our lives to Him who always hears our prayers. The recommendation for this life of conversation to take place comes from our example, Jesus Christ and He calls us to find a solitary place. This solitary place may be a quiet room, the mountains, the garden, the countryside or the beach, even underneath an apron.

If a passing stranger walking through the rural village of Epworth, England, on any given day between 1700 and 1720 had peered through the window of the home of the rector of the local Anglican church, he might have caught sight of something quite strange. Depending on the time of day, this observer might have seen a woman sitting in a chair with her kitchen apron pulled up over her head while ten children read, studied, or played all around her.

Two of those ten children would have been little boys — John and Charles — who would grow up to shape the course of Christian history and thus change the world. The woman under the apron would have been Susanna Wesley, who assumed this odd posture for two hours almost every day.

These practical places are all acceptable to be alone with God. If we declare that Jesus is Lord of our lives, then our first act of love must be to give God our attention. It is critical when making changes to our lives that we first ask Him – how? A group of friends met together some years ago and we agreed to encourage one another in our walk with God. One friend in particular because of his love for the mountains said we were to ask him when prompted if he had been up the mountain lately? In other words, had he been making time to be alone with his God.

TROUBLE AND PRAYER

In John 17 we find Jesus talking openly and honestly with His Father in prayer. A timely and significant response or rather follow on from an earlier statement. “I have told you all this so that you may find your peace in Me. You will find trouble in the world – but, never lose heart, I have conquered the world.” [4]
Conversational prayer is as important to our well-being and relationship with God as the necessity of breathing in the fresh air around about us, in order to stay alive. We cannot do without it! Conversational prayer is our life support system. When we pray it is not about trying to overcome God’s reluctance to answer us. Neither is it about metaphorically twisting God’s arm, politely telling God to accomplish what we feel needs to be done. Sometimes there are no words just aches and the pains of the heart which we bring to Him knowing He can restore us. Let’s please keep praying -simply. Prayer is, however, becoming aware of what God is doing so that we can participate in the good of it.

 

[1] Luke 5:16 NASB  [2] Matthew 6:6 JBP  [3] Psalm 27:8 NLT  [4] John 16:33 JBP