I can’t believe how 80s I am.
Every time I think, or hear, the phrase “You’ve got to pray,” I envision MC Hammer pants. That can’t be healthy.
But, here we go… You’ve got to pray (just to make it today… wow, it is an illness).
Communication is essential to any relationship, and without it the relationship will wither and die. Or, at least go into a period of hibernation until the spring thaw.
What is communication? When we think about prayer this is the bigger question, because I think we have too often pigeon-holed our definition a prayer to being a close-eyed, bowed-head recitation of our forgiveness requests followed by a listing of our most common wants disguised as needs.
Where’s the interplay? Where the dialogue? Where’s the relationship?
That definition of prayer would never fly as real communication in marriage. Guarantee you. Try it. Wait, don’t try it. I don’t have any counseling slots left, and you’d need it after that.
Granted, it’s difficult to have a conversation when God does not respond verbally, but if you listen, He does speak.
The Psalms are great expressions of human prayer. About every other Psalm begins with God hear me, listen to me, or I cry out. Then there’s usually a verse or two about being ignored by God, but always ends up with, “My bad, guess you were listening.”
By the way that verse is in the NMACSV, otherwise known as the New Middle Aged Cool Speak Version. Get a copy, all your friends are doing it.
That pattern in the Psalms may be a little oversimplified, but it is a very real motif that connects quite accurately to the human condition.
I recently encountered this pattern in Psalm 5, and found an incredible help for my personal prayer life in verse three:
Psalm 5:3 (NIV)
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.
While this is not the end all, be all of lessons on prayer, it is a great beginning.
First, the Psalmist says, “In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice.” The key to good communication is to know you are being heard.
I’ve heard the expression before “My prayers were bouncing off the ceiling.” Well, when we say that it’s like we’re saying of God, “It’s like talking to a brick wall!”
Note: not a good relational tactic… questioning God’s attention span, that is.
Sure, we all struggle with the material speaking to the immaterial. It’s hard to connect our flesh to His Spirit, but we’ve been given a promise.
- If we ask, it will be given.
- If we seek, we will find.
- If we knock, it will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-12)
He is listening.
As tough as it is sometimes, we need to approach our times of prayer with the confidence to know, and believe, “you hear my voice.”
We’re not just talking to ourselves… God hears you.
Second, the Psalmist says, “In the morning, I lay my requests before you.” It’s important that we make the big ask. Scripture says you have not, because you ask not (James 4:2).
But, too much of that and it all seems a bit mercenary. Any relationship you have where each encounter involves someone asking you for something, spells trouble.
You don’t feel like a friend or ally. You end up feeling like a resource.
So, even though the Psalmist laid his requests before God we need to understand the nature of requests.
Sure, there will be times we request help, funds and direction, but learn to be in a relationship and make the ‘other’ ask.
- Ask for opportunities to serve.
- Ask for Him to use you.
- Ask for eyes to see the need.
- Ask for strength to grow more like Him.
- Ask for things bigger than you, or your little world.
Now, that’s the big ask.
Third, the Psalmist says, “And wait in expectation.” It would be easy to focus on the concept of ‘wait’ here, since patience is a virtue. Even though it stinks.
But, the better focus is on the quality of waiting we are encouraged to have… expectancy.
True we need to lay some requests before God and then leave them alone. Why? That way when He responds our faith is built and He gets all the glory.
More importantly, during the waiting we should experience expectation. Like kids under the Christmas tree shaking, rubbing, weighing and sniffing each present (my kids sniff… big deal). It’s no wonder they can’t sleep on Christmas Eve, they are so full of expectation.
There is no doubt in them. They know that when they get up the next morning, it’s going to be awesome!
Waiting on God in expectation is not just hope that He might do something; it’s the belief that He will do something.
Heal my marriage, restore my body, fix my finances, protect my children, change my heart.
True, God will often require us to take action on what He has already instructed, but as you walk through your spiritual paces never forget to keeps your eyes future-focused eagerly expecting that God is coming through!
Make your prayers a conversation, real communication.
Believe that He hears. Make the ask about more than just you. Trust your God can and will respond.
But, as for me, I have to get moving.
It’s Hammer Time!