If you haven’t read the previous posts on unanswered prayer, consider backing up a bit. We’ve been discussing cultivating contentment when God does not appear to be moving on our behalf. I believe Part One and Part Two will give this post context for you. And you can always head to my 31 Days page to view all of the entries in my Contented Heart series!
I want to engage a bit the idea of praying itself. Not because there is a formula (there isn’t) and not because how we pray unlocks any magic thing for us (it doesn’t).
But there is power in knowing how to engage God in prayer and I will assure you: it is more than doing all the talking and all the requesting. There is a mystery in which deep calls to deep, a glorious centering that happens when we encounter God in sacred communion. I believe when we have come to know His heart for us in moments or seasons of intentional prayer & communion, there is a great settledness in our walk with Him. There is less room to nurture bitterness and discontent when we have lain at His feet, heard His voice, waited on Him in silence.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of my absolute favorites. He is clear and straightforward, speaking to the heart. My mother sent me a quote of his recently and I was prompted to look up what he has to say about prayer. I found a compelling piece from his book Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible.
Jesus Christ has brought every need, every joy, every gratitude, every hope of men before God. In his mouth the word of man becomes the Word of God, and if we pray his prayer with him, the Word of God becomes once again the word of man. All prayers of the Bible are such prayers which we pray together with Jesus Christ, in which he accompanies us, and through which he brings us into the presence of God. Otherwise there are no true prayers, for only in and with Jesus Christ can we truly pray. …
If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray. … The richness of the Word of God ought to determine our prayer, not the poverty of our heart.
I want to suggest to you that prayer is a way of orienting ourselves & our requests around the person of Jesus Christ. It’s a way of relating everything that goes on in our lives, every need & want we have, to Him. We establish a God-consciousness in our daily activity. We use Himself, His Word, His presence as our reference point for all things that take place. This is how prayer is born in our hearts. When we are relating everything in our lives to Jesus Christ, to God the Father, then we are communing with Him. We are delighting in Him. And a delighted woman has no space to allow discontent to grow in her life. She becomes astutely aware of those first roots of bitterness and takes them to the Father, asks His grace to uproot them so that she may move about freely in her days.
We experience the richness of God’s mercy in our quiet times of prayer. For some of us, that is before the household wakes. For others, it is a quiet corner in the midst of a busy day or a cozy lamplit chair after everyone is asleep. But for all of us, when the tide of prayer flows, we creatively carve out the time to be obedient to the Father in intentional communion with Him.
And we also experience His great mercy in our ongoing, daily communion. Where we pray on our commute or sing praises about the house or leave the Word of God open on the desk or table. The great and beautiful thing of prayer is that our ongoing communion can be as varied as our personalities and we offer up to God the sacrifice of our time in diverse ways. Because for each of us, when the tide of prayer ebbs, we creatively seek to “pray without ceasing” in the busyness of our days.
Both of these means of prayer – the great deep quiet and the ongoing continual fellowship – bless our hearts, connect us to the Father, and establish practices so that we are well-equipped to handle the disappointments and discontent.
When I am orienting my heart and mind around the person of Jesus Christ, when my prayer becomes an expression of my dependence upon God, then I am able to gladly and freely let go of dissatisfaction and cultivate contentment, even when Holy God says “no” to me. My fellowship with Him is not hindered, my communion with Him is unbroken and my heart is steadfast because of His life at work in me.