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Efforting Prayer

Updated: Mar 11, 2023

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 devotional and prayer time.

Then I led our sub-group in 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 constituted 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 was praying independently, usually in solitude. 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. 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.

There was a Bible in the glove box 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.

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 prepared 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. And it may have been easier for me in New Jersey, but I need to put my 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.

It's easy to wonder why Jesus seems so far away and harder to remember that He is exactly where we left Him.

Fortunately, this is a fixable situation. God is ready for us to pull Him closer again. He wants us to be like children clamoring for His attention.

And 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”.

Children don’t wait for the perfect 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 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. Sit on the back steps with a cup of tea. Make time for Him where ever you can; the more the better!

I’m starting again 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. (Just kidding!)

But I am determined to get back into the right relationship with God through prayer, and that takes some 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

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