Prayer is my delight and prayer is my struggle.
It can take time to get me to a place of prayer. I have times when prayer feels natural, others when it feels hard. It will be the same of some of you. Not all – some of you will have regular and rewarding times of prayer. Others of you will worry that you do not. However, I hope that by focussing on prayer as a way of expressing our love for God, of worshipping God through prayer, we can be encouraged, wherever we are (or wherever we feel we are) in our lives of prayer, and that we can encourage each other to pray.
Think about the moments when you do pray – however little or often these are. What are the main things you pray about? What leads you to the place of prayer?
Prayer can often by fuelled by external circumstances – needs of our own lives, or those of others; the situations of those we love, or those we read and hear about. It can also be borne out of strong feeling – fear, grief. Feelings of remorse or regret can lead us to a place of confession.
Some of us may find it difficult to praise God through prayer. Perhaps we even feel odd doing it – some people feel foolish praying in front of others; some feel a bit foolish praying by themselves, especially if these prayers aren’t lists of needs to go through, or a ready-made structure.
But to love God through prayer is more than giving him our list of needs or saying we are sorry when we get it wrong. I’d go so far as to say that to love God through prayer is more even than thanking God for the things God does for us. These are important things, and we are invited to cast our cares upon our loving God. But to be vulnerable before God, to be a fool before God – to dance or sing or weep; to stand or sit or kneel, to whisper in the darkness or shout in the light – just because God is all and in all and over all – this is prayer as worship.
Worship does not always mean words. Sometimes the phrases we try and use feel too ‘pat’. Sometimes we need the moments of silence when our hearts swell and all we can whisper is thank you – and all we can murmur is wow – or even just a gasp of a breath as we glimpse how good God is. The prayer transcends this moment, and becomes something burning and bright.
We need to allow ourselves space for this kind of prayer; because it’s not automatic. Sometimes things do kick us into awe, but often we fill our lives too readily with other stuff, and we hurry our times with God, and our prayers shrink…
We need to ask God to help our prayers to expand, to in that act of praying know what it is to love God before all others. For if we crowd our lives with so many other loves we can miss that one defining love – of God all powerful, all merciful, all wonderful.
This is an adapted extract from a talk I recently gave called ‘Loving God through prayer’ – more to follow…