I taught a study on Ruth this summer, and we saw such a powerful progression of a family going from great disappointment to exceeding joy! All it took for Ruth to go from nowhere to somewhere was a very simple thing: An Invitation. This wasn't any old light weight invitation. It was an invitation to the God of Naomi to have His way in her life. It was an invitation characterized by an open heart and obedience. It was an invitation that changed her entire life!
If we are to experience God's best in our lives, we simply have to invite Him to have His way. We have to seek His mind regarding the details of where we go, who we connect to, what we choose as a career, who we marry, what church we attend, what ministry we serve in, and what responsibility we take on in this season of our lives. We have to invite God in, and we do so through prayer.
Many people think that prayer is about making our requests known to God, and it is. However, that is only part of what prayer is. Prayer can be defined as building a rapport with a deity through deliberate communication. That is important because we don't think about prayer as building rapport, a trust, an understanding with God. We literally build our relationship with God through the time we set aside to talk to Him. And there must be time set aside. That is how we are deliberate and intentional. Sometimes we want to pray as we go about our day or night, but setting aside the time is so important. It gives an opportunity to focus and to show God how important He is. It gives us time to remember how important talking to our God is. And finally, let's take a look at that word communication. Prayer is communication. It is talking to God about matters of our heart and of our life.
Some of us are just bad at communication, and it bleeds into our prayer lives. We are not vulnerable, and we don't know how to open up our souls to others. This makes it hard to open up to the Lord as well. We carry our masks into our prayer time, if we ever even have that prayer time. On the other hand, some of us communicate very well...with everyone else but Jesus. We dump out our cares and thoughts to our friends and family members, and we fail to take them to the one who can actually do something about them.
Prayer is all about us talking to God and having a conversation with Him. Yes, He knows the ins and outs of our lives and our needs, but prayer is about building a relationship. We grow closer to God in prayer. It is a part of our relationship that we can't leave out. So, here are some keys for a healthy understanding of prayer:
1. Prayer is where we get to tell God how good He is and thank Him for all He has done.
2. Prayer is about building our relationship with God. It is where we learn more about God and share with Him the most vulnerable parts of us.
3. Prayer is where we share our requests with God, and invite Him to do His will in our lives.
4. Prayer is where we listen to what God is saying and surrender to Him.
5. Prayer is where we confess our mistakes, faults, and failures, and we repent and receive God's loving pardon.
So if prayer is all of this, why do some people give up on praying when a request is seemingly not answered? They throw the baby out with the bath water because of a false idea of what prayer is. It isn't about us giving God a to do list. Thankfully, when we make our requests known to Him, He ALWAYS answers. Whether He says yes, no, or wait, we know that we can trust His love, power, wisdom, and timing. And when He gives an affirmative answer, we must always remember that our obedience is key.
Some practical advice that may help you as you work on building your prayer are below:
1. Find a time that works for you. If you aren't a morning person, don't choose the morning. If you are tired at night, don't save it for then. Find a time that you can really tune into the Lord and slow down to talk to Him. If there is no part of your day that is conducive, something needs to change.
2. Find a place that works for you. Whether it is a room in the house or a spot on the couch, have a meeting place with God. Have a sacred space dedicated to focusing on Him.
3. Get a partner if you find yourself struggling. There is nothing like accountability and community when you are trying to get better at something.
4. Keep it meaningful and sincere. When you find that you are losing consistency or passion, change it up. Don't just drift away. Remember, this is not just a challenge or a fast, it is a lifestyle. It is a necessary part of a healthy relationship with God and a healthy you.
Let's give God an invitation into our lives and into every situation that we face. We do this through prayer and obedience. Then, like Ruth, we will see our stories takes shifts and turns that we could never imagine.