“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed. Amen.”
Sound familiar? Some of us have prayed that prayer countless times before a meal. Or at least something similar. Maybe it’s a prayer you pray before you go to bed at night. Maybe it’s one you pray before you go on a road trip. Maybe it’s one you pray with your kids. Life is complicated and full and sometimes it just not that easy to come up with something thoughtful to say to Jesus.
What is prayer anyway? How do we really experience all that God wants for us in prayer? Should we all be seeking a deep and impactful prayer life or is that just for a chosen few?
Martin Luther wrote, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
So, would you describe your prayers as life-giving, world-changing, supernaturally infused, and personally enriching?
Prayer is ultimately a conversation with God. Psalm 116:2 says that God has actually inclined His ear to hear us. It is as though He has knelt down on one knee, cupped His hand to His ear, and leaned forward so as to hear our tiny voice more clearly. It is humbling and awesome.
There is no greater expression of God’s listening and talking self than in Jesus Christ. He was always interested in conversation.
Jesus met with a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was possibly one of the most powerful religious men in Israel at the time; he was the biggest man on campus. They engaged in a nighttime conversation and talked about what it meant to be born again (see John 3:1-21).
Jesus met with a woman at a well. She was the outcast of outcasts, had made a lot of mistakes in her life, and was jaded and wary. He talked to her about living water. He offered her true eternal life (see John 4:1-42).
Jesus met with His disciple, Peter, who was probably one of the most notorious failures of all time. After claiming that he would stand by Jesus through everything, he denied Jesus three times when the pressure was on. Jesus’ conversation with Him centred around the question, “Do you love me?” (see John 21:1-24).
This is how it is with Jesus. He doesn’t go for pre-rehearsed dialogue. He looks and listens, and knows each person He is talking to, and caters each conversation uniquely to that person. This is how Jesus always acted. Whether it was to a demon-possessed crazy man (Mark 5:1-20), or a little child (Matthew 18:1-5), or the governor of Judea (John 18:28-19:10), He spoke to them what they most needed to hear.
This is how He wants to relate to each of us in prayer. He knows you. He knows your situation. He even knows what you are thinking.
“You perceive my thought from afar…Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely, oh Lord.” (Psalm 139:2b & v.4)
And because He knows you so well, He wants to say things to you that only He can say. He will say things to you that you won’t hear anywhere else. How could you? Who knows you better than the Creator of your soul?
The conversation that He wants to have with you will be personal. It will be between you and the Living God. If you will engage with your whole heart, you will actually hear from the God of the universe.
The conversation will be dynamic. It will ebb and flow. Sometimes it will be full of words, and other times, full of silences. It will be current; it will include exactly what you are going through in the moment.
The conversation will be two-way. It will involve speaking and listening. It can be easy to forget that. We can come to God with our list of requests, dump it all out before Him, and then continue on our way without giving Him a chance to get two words in.
I love what Mother Teresa said when she was interviewed by Dan Rather. She had just mentioned that she prayed several hours a day, so he asked, “What do you say to God when you pray?” She answered, “I mostly just listen.” Then he followed up with the obvious question, “What does God say to you then?” She answered, “He mostly just listens.”
I wonder how much deeper and richer our prayer lives would be if spent more time listening than talking.
The Living Christ will speak to us through His Holy Spirit. He will speak to us through the Word of God, the Bible. Have you ever read a passage that you know you have read many times before but all of a sudden, this time it “speaks to your heart”? That is God speaking to you. He is illuminating His Word, using it to communicate to you.
He will speak to us through the gift of His creation. Slow down. Look up at the stars. Listen to the wind in the trees. Dip your toes in a cold mountain stream. Pay attention. He created all of it on purpose, to communicate to you.
“Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.” (Romans 1:19-20)
He will speak to us through our circumstances, through others, through a picture or an impression in our hearts.
The point is, He will speak. Will you listen?
Don’t worry about saying all the right words. Jesus is completely unimpressed with flashy dialogue. He wants to hear your heart in all its messiness and confusion. And He wants to speak to you in all His love and compassion.
Don’t miss out on the best conversations of your life. Jesus is always waiting to engage with you.