We were walking to our bus stop, heading to work, when Ernie asked, “Do you pray?”
Ernie: “I’m not sure.”
Me: “Why do you ask?”
Ernie: “Because I’m trying to figure out what prayer is good for?”
I nearly tripped on a crack in the sidewalk. But I recovered and refocused on why do I pray and what is prayer good for?
Me: “Well, I pray to get things, to get help, to …”
Ernie: “So, you pray because you believe prayer is the way to get things done?”
Me: “Sure. You know,” (I thought of the three ways I was taught that God answers prayer 1-Yes. 2-No. 3-Wait.) “I pray because I can’t get the help I need on my own.”
Ernie: “Do you think your prayers change God’s mind?
Me: Trying to Manipulate God is something I’m guilty of even though I realize it’s impossible to do. So, why do I do it? I guess because manipulation works on people, so I figure why wouldn’t it work on God? “No, but yes, because I’m thinking that God may be manipulating me to pray like He wants me to pray.”
Ernie: “So, no.”
Me: “Yes, probably.” Okay maybe not manipulation, how about maneuvering? I mean there’s a formula to praying correctly, right? Like ACTS: 1-Adoration. 2 Confession. 3-Thanksgiving. 4-Supplication (requesting/asking). Or the 7 petitions of the Lord’s Prayer: 1-Hallowed be your name. 2-Your kingdom come. 3-Your will be done. 4- Give us. 5-Forgive us. 6-Lead us. 7-Deliver us. Or praying one of David’s psalms). “Why do you pray?”
Ernie: “Thanks for asking. I agree God knows everything before I pray and I don’t think prayer changes God’s mind. Furthermore, I think a prayer formula has limited worth. God doesn’t listen to me because I pray a prayer scheme so that I can cover all the areas I’m supposed to pray for correctly. What I really think is that God wants me to get real and talk to Him from my heart.”
Me: “Okay, so why is that?”
Ernie: “Well I’m thinking prayer is mostly good for developing intimacy with God.”
So much has been written about prayer. When to pray. Where to pray. What to pray. Why to pray. How to pray. Who am I to say something significant about prayer? Yet, the other day I read (again) about Jesus slipping away from the chaos of ministry and his opposition to spend all night with God in prayer (Luke 6:12). What’s more this evidently wasn’t a one time event for Jesus, it seems he did this (get-alone-to-pray) frequently (Luke 5:16).
This intrigues me. Much too often I’ve rushed through my prayers and been relieved when the time was finished (usually not more than five minutes). I obviously missed something significant. I think Ernie hit on the something I’ve missed. In prayer I have the opportunity to know God intimately. Intimacy: closeness, friendship, affection, familiarity, confidentiality, and yes an interchange of true love and admiration.
I think I’m beginning to see why Jesus valued this time spent with His father. Their conversation was straight talk. The heavenly father opened His heart to Jesus. Jesus opened his heart to His father. It was a father-son talk I’ve yet to experience.
Still I sort of follow this all-night exchange behavior because I know that when you love someone it’s as if you can’t spend enough time with them. You want to hold on to the intimacy moments. You never want to leave their presence. You never want the time together to be over.
Prayer is an opportunity to become more intimate with God. That’s a little scary for me, yet my heart wants this, my heart longs for this, my heart thirsts for this. God knows me intimately and through prayer I am given the opportunity to know God intimately.
Prayer is your opportunity to know God is real.