Thursday, June 2, 2011


Have you ever felt like everyone around you knows how to pray except you? I’m not exactly sure where I learned the criteria that I’ve accumulated through the years about prayer. While I didn’t learn it in my childhood home, as a young girl I did watch as others “in church” reverently bowed their heads and closed their eyes upon demand. Through the years I’ve also read a lot about prayer and every author seems to have their own set of guidelines to help the reader along in their “prayer life.”

“Stand up! Sit down! Fold your hands! Bow your head! Close your eyes! Kneel! Make a list! Let God lead! If it isn’t in tongues, it isn’t `in the Spirit’! If it’s in tongues, it’s of the devil! Talk! Listen! Contemplate! You must say, `In Jesus name’! Add `Father God’ before and after every sentence! Satan can’t read your mind! You must vocally stand against him!”

I’ve spent years trying to apply the guidelines of many spiritual leaders on prayer. I’ve been inwardly critical of those who weren’t following the “right” standards; “Oh, he can’t really be praying. Why, he doesn’t even have his eyes closed!” I’ve even gone so far as to lead retreats on prayers, as if I had it all figured out!

I’ve dutifully bowed my head & got on my knees, whispered & shouted, closed my eyes & looked toward heaven and contemplated & listened. The eventual result of all this effort was… I felt like screaming and pulling my hair out! The more I labored to apply what I had learned, the more confused I became. All these rules made my head spin! I don’t know, maybe I have spiritual ADHD, but all the “how tos” just don’t seem to work for me! I’ve gotten so frustrated that I’ve even gone through spells of “why bother?”

I’ve heard it said that, "a person’s intimacy with Jesus is based upon the depth of their prayer life." During a period of feeling pretty shallow intimacy with Jesus, I cried out to Him; “I have no clue how to pray!” I didn’t expect this response,

You are right. You don’t! And... no matter how much they act like they do, neither does anyone else! Intimacy with Me doesn’t come from self-effort! You can do nothing, including prayer, without Me!

In the same way also, the Spirit takes hold together with us in our weakness – we don’t know how we are to pray so that our prayers will correspond to the need, but the Spirit super-intercedes with deeply emotional heartfelt groanings. And he who searches the hearts knows what the Spirit has in mind, that the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the people devoted to God, in line with God’s plan [Romans 8:26-27].

You pray “fix this problem, heal that illness, protect them from injury, provide this and prevent that! How is it that you know what this or that person truly needs?

Talk about being humbled! I felt like Job must have felt when God asked of him, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations?” And you know…my response wasn’t much different than Job’s, “Father, forgive me. I’m sure that I have spoken of many things which I do not understand!”

I learned something on that day about prayer:

Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God God is in heaven and you are on earth,
so let your words be few

[Ecclesiastes 5:2].

I’m learning from the examples of Jesus in Scripture, especially His prayer on Gethsemane, My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, as you will (Matt. 26:39).

With Jesus as my teacher, I’m learning that

Prayer is a place in my relationship with God: • where pride is adandoned, humility adopted and dependecy upon Him is claimed. • of knowing that He has a panoramic view which I do not.
• of sharing my heart’s desire with Him.
• of surrendering my will for His.
• where I meet the Prince of Peace.
• where I am changed.

Although Scripture does tell us that we are to pray in Jesus’ Name [(John 14:13-14, 16:24, 26; Colossians 3:17], it doesn’t mean that the words are a magical addendum to be tagged onto every prayer. What matters is whether or not we acknowledge that there is nothing in us which deserves the right to stand before God! Instead, it is Jesus’ righteousness which has provided the way to our Father!

According to God’s Word there is no “correct” posture for prayer [Ex. 4:31, 1 Kings 8:22, 45, 2 Chron 20:18 and Matt. 26:39]. In fact, while communing with Jesus among other members of His Body, I find that I’m more aware of His presence while beholding His face in my brothers and sisters as we converse with Him and one another! Yes, that means I have my eyes open!

According to Scripture [James 1:1-4], God uses trials to test and strengthen our faith. When praying for ourselves or others, we need to consider: “Do I sincerely want them/myself to be sheltered from that which may be the necessary means to their/my maturity in faith? While God hates disease, divorce, poverty, etc., His greater concern is the depth of our reliance upon Him.

I become very uneasy in a setting where a group of people redundantly repeat a list of wants and wishes in prayer. While attempting to endure the babbling, which seems to go on ad infinitum, I used to feel guilty assuming segregation in my restlessness. I’ve come to understand however that God is not only unimpressed with our rambling; He likens it to pagan activity!

When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him [Matthew 6:7-8].

No wonder I get restless! Why is prayer often reduced to such hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo when God simply desires that we include Him in our thoughts and conversations? If He is ever-present, why aren’t we continually [1 Thess. 5:17] addressing Him:

“Father, we need your wisdom.”
“You are wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom!”
“Jesus, what do you desire?”
“May our words and meditations be pleasing in your sight!”
“Abba, is there any other way?
“Lord, I surrender to your will!”

I have much more to learn about the beauty and simplicity of prayer. Yet, I am grateful for the freedom which God has granted me from the bondage of all the rules and find peace and joy in the simplicity.!

Bonnie Jaeckle

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