Last Wednesday, we worked with a short-term mission team. We prayed before we ate breakfast. After the meal, we sang a few songs and had a devotional and prayer time. Then I led our sub-group in a prayer to kick off the clinic. We prayed again before lunch and closed the clinic day with prayer. A little later, we were praying before supper. Then we went to a church service and sang and prayed for two more hours.
Later, I confided to my wife, “I really don’t pray enough.”
You see, I used to make time for prayer. Wednesday, I said a lot of words to God. They were sincere and they were prayer; but it's not enough to pray when I am scheduled or feel obligated to do so. Going to a church service is great and necessary; but reciting prayers with everyone else is not the same.
Don’t get me wrong; group prayer is a powerful and wonderful thing. But even in groups, the best prayers come from the heart, not from a script or verse. In Guatemala services, we pray individual and personal prayers out loud. It’s a group….but it’s personal.
Over the years, I have had moments where I was awestruck during prayer. Many prayers have been answered, but occasionally it was like Jesus was right there in front of me. When I think about truly special prayer moments, I realize a pattern. I would pray independently, usually in solitude, and most importantly, I allowed time to listen for an answer. After all, prayer is a conversation between us and God. As Psychologist William McGill once said, “The value of consistent prayer is not that God will hear us; it’s that we will hear Him.”
My last job required lots of driving. I always left the front passenger seat empty. My briefcase, equipment and trash were always in the back seat. I had a cup holder and center console to use; but nothing went on the passenger seat.
That was because I liked to think that Jesus sat there. On the road we had many long conversations about everything and anything. It’s amazing how the mind can stay on track and resolve things when Jesus is listening. Also, I got 220,000 miles out of my Chevy without a scratch or a breakdown!
I carried a Bible in the glove box back then in case I was early for a meeting. I started each morning by saying “thank you, God” and requesting patience, wisdom and faith to get through the day. After services each Sunday, I went to the beach to have a conversation with God.
Many evenings, I walked the boardwalk imagining that I was with Jesus. I would chat and bounce ideas off Him as we walked. (Praise God that I don’t have to speak out loud for Him to hear me!)
But life is different now. I spend my time working with mission groups, our feeding program, or the foundation. I write a Christian blog. I am writing a Christian book that has me researching Bible history and translations for hours. We attend two churches regularly. You would think I was feeling pretty Christian.
But the opposite is true. I feel farther from God than I have felt in years. As I was preparing a different blog for today, I realized why. I’m simply not making time for God like I used to.
Of course, that is easier said than done for many of us. It may have been easier for me in New Jersey. But that is not an excuse or even a valid reason. A Christian should put his relationship with God before all else.
Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do today that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” My life was so much easier when I had an active relationship with God. How I let myself get consumed in tasks and forgot to include God is embarrassing.
In his book “Has Christianity Failed You? “, Ravi Zacharias talks about going through life without praying consistently. He says, “I think the reason we sometimes have the false sense that God is so far away is because that is where we have put him. We have kept him at a distance, and then when we are in need and call on him in prayer, we wonder where he is. He is exactly where we left him.”
Fortunately, this is a fixable situation. If we feel God is at a distance, we can pull Him back in! He wants us to be like children… so let’s be that innocent youngster who constantly clamors for his father’s attention.
Force a conversation… and give Him time to answer! See what pops into your head. People always ask me, “where did you get that idea?” or “How did you figure that out?” All the credit goes to God.
But let’s not be that kid who always wants something. Certainly, we go to Him with needs, but sometimes, let’s check in “just because”. The most memorable moments with my girls never started with “I need” nor “Can I”. The best moments are regular conversations. They are ideas and sharing. They are “thank you” and hugs.
Children don’t wait for a good time to interrupt their father, either. We can use moments while we drive or sit in a waiting room. We could pull into a rest stop on the way home and take fifteen minutes to go over things with Jesus.
Before you put the television on, share the moment with God. Go for a walk or a jog and talk to the Lord. It will go that much easier. (Ask my Chevy!) Sit on the back steps with a cup of tea. Make time for Him where ever you can; the more the better!
I’m getting re-started right now. There is no beach near Guatemala City and frankly I’m not sure how Yesenia will feel about riding in the back seat from now on (kidding!); but I will get back into a right relationship with God through prayer and effort.
It is more important than missions, my work, or writing a book; because even though God is always available for me no matter what, my life is that much better when I make myself available to Him, too.
“The Lord is close to all who call on Him, yes, to all who call on Him sincerely.” – Psalm 145:18