I don't know about you, but sometimes when I pray, I come away feeling more burdened than I began.
Let me give an example, and this may sound pithy, but I think it works to clarify. You know those photos people post on Facebook of lost dogs? Yeah, the terribly sad ones. I always try to pray, even if it's just for a few moments, the dogs or cats will find their way back home. But often, as I think through all these different scenarios of things that might have happened to these poor people's beloved pet, I end up stressing myself out and coming away from the prayer feeling burdened.
This was never God's design.
If we're not careful, this can become a vicious cycle that actually turns us away from, rather that toward, God.
Today I was listening to KLove with the following verse was read:
Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. (John 14:1 NLT)
Don't let our hearts be troubled? Trust in God and in Christ? Isn't that what I'm doing when I send up these frantic prayers? Well, maybe not . . .
Today I want to challenge you--and myself--that if prayer leaves you feeling vulnerable, fragmented, and worrisome, then something is wrong. Prayer is designed to put us in connection with God, and His presence will always make us whole. We may not always like His answer, but it's best for us, and something deep within our soul recognizes that. When we hear from God, we find peace. We feel settled.
Prayer should be a conversation with God, not a one-sided street where we beg God to do what we want and hope He hears us. We need to do less "convincing" and more listening.
Time and again, I am amazed when God reminds me He's been two steps ahead of me all along. I don't have to figure it all out and suggest a game plan to Him. I don't have to talk Him into doing things my way. I don't have to beg Him to be good or to care about my life. He already is good, and He already does care. More deeply than I know.
What I do need to do is trust.
See, without trust, the trouble sets in. With trust, on the other hand, we can find freedom. Have you ever dated someone you didn't trust and found yourself constantly trying to govern their behavior? Don't treat God that way. He's in the business of healing us, not breaking us down.
So let me point out several areas where we can trust God, and thus avoid the troubling of our hearts...
- Trust who God is. Do you really believe God is good? That He loves His children? That He loves you and died for relationship? That He knows your day to day moments and is highly invested in redeeming your life, and your heart? This seems like such a simple concept, but it's difficult to put into practice. When challenges and disappointments come, we tend to doubt God's nature. We wonder if He is still good. We wonder if He has forgotten us. God is I AM-- who was and is and is to come. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Taste and see that He is good. And can I also just say something else? He gets us. He loves us. It's no surprise to Him that we doubt His love. So ask Him to show Himself to you, to make His love real in your life in a whole new way. Ask Him to remind you of His goodness, and He will.
- Trust who you are. You are a child of God. A friend of God. Sometimes in the church, we harp on our fallen nature a lot. We hear about how fallen, how bruised, how broken we are, and how far we are from God's original plan. Yes, it's important to recognized our flawed state because it's the first step to receiving grace. However, I think we make a major mistake when we oversimplify our characterization of humanity as broken. We are still infinitely valuable to God--despite the fall and even in it. We were created to do good things--created in the image of God. Did you catch that? You were created in the image of God. Not just Adam or Eve or Noah or David or the apostle Paul. You. Your friends, your spouse, your children. God cares about you just as much as He cared about them. You don't have to talk God into caring, or listening. He already cares much more than you realize. Instead of trying to talk Him into getting in your boat, step inside His. It's a much more fulfilling ride, I guarantee, because God is the one who designed your heart in the first place, and you were created to crave intimacy with Him. You are uniquely valuable to Him as an individual, so don't dismiss the creation He so desperately loves... yourself.
- Trust God's promises. Has God promised you something but hasn't delivered yet? Are you feeling like Abraham... old and desperate for affirmation of God's promise? Sometimes we have to wait before we hear from God, but He always answers us, and He always listens. Hold fast to the promises God has spoken into your life and into your heart. He has not forgotten them, and He has not forgotten you.
When we begin to reshape our perspective of God, ourselves, and His promises, we begin to pray differently... we start seeing prayer as a way to ask God what He wants rather than as a means to our own end. God is not your personal genie. He's got too much more in mind for our lives to give up His heaven-sized plans for our earth-sized ones.
What about you? Do you ever find yourself growing weary in prayer? In what ways have you learned to trust God, and how does that help your heart?