Prayer is a curious thing. You can ask a dozen people what prayer is or how to pray, and you’ll likely get almost as many answers. Interestingly enough, they can all be right. Just as people are different, so, too, can their prayer experiences be different. Many of us aren’t even sure how to pray. Take, for example, the way I used to pray (and I said used to pray). It went sort of like this: I would get my thoughts and demands in order and decide exactly what I needed to tell God. Then I’d give Him my list of needs, as if God were some omnipotent and omnipresent Santa Claus. “OK, God, listen up. Your servant is speaking. I’d really like nice weather this weekend; please let my kid’s team win the big game; and, oh yeah, winning the lottery would come in real handy right about now.” Then, after giving God this “to-do” list, I would dismiss Him to His work and never even listen for an answer. I just didn’t get it.
Occasionally I remembered to thank God when he answered my prayer the way I wanted Him to. The problem was that I would always feel “let down” and blame God when I didn’t get what I asked for. I thought the fault was with God for not giving me what I wanted rather than with me and the way I prayed. I guess I never expected No to be the answer from God. Ask and you shall receive, right? ...
From Chapter 3 – All Ears
• Appreciate the Silence
In these days of multimedia, televisions, computers, YouTube, videos, radios, CDs, iPods, mobile phones, and increasingly excessive background noise, it seems we are becoming more and more uncomfortable with the sound of silence. Too often I find myself sitting at my computer to work, and I will turn on the TV behind me or play some music on the CD player. Even in the few minutes it takes to make coffee in the morning, I’ll unconsciously turn on the TV, usually without even paying enough attention to hear whatever I tuned in to hear, only to turn it off three or four minutes later without having heard anything. Noise. It just fills the space. Can we even tolerate the quiet anymore? How many of us, on the rare occasions when we can find time to just sit on the back deck — or wherever our “quiet place” might be — are able to detach ourselves from our cell phones or computers and just enjoy the silence, the peace and quiet? This could be a great time to “listen” for God. We might think of prayer as us talking to God, but prayer is a conversation, and, therefore, should be two-sided. We need to stop talking long enough to listen for God’s side of the conversation. That’s what the quiet is for...
From Chapter 8 – Feast or Fast
Normally there are about three reasons we’d really give any thought to our stomachs. It’s either because we are watching our waistlines, we have a stomachache, or our stomach is screaming, “Feed me!” I’m betting prayer probably doesn’t come immediately to mind.
Fasting is one of the oldest, most traditional forms of prayer recorded, though it seems to have fallen out of favor in recent years. It’s too bad, because fasting can be a very powerful form of prayer. I believe it is a key to a more effective prayer life. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18). Did you catch the first few words of that passage? Jesus didn’t say if you fast, he said when you fast, and he said it twice! ...