The Habit and The Heart of Prayer

I am a terrible prayer. Pray-er? Pray-ee? The point is, I am terrible at praying. I have been in church my whole life. I have heard people pray for as long as I’ve had breath. Eloquent prayers. Fervent prayers. Thankful prayers. Joyful prayers. Desperate prayers. I’ve even been the source of those prayers. I have been prayed for since before I was born. And many times since then, I’m sure. But when it comes to my prayers, I fall short.

Even though I grew up in the church, I didn’t become a Christian until I was 18 years old. My father was a pastor, so I knew how to walk the walk and talk the talk but at the very heart of things, I was the best at deceiving. I wasn’t saved. I didn’t want to be saved, and prayer meetings were dumb.

And then Jesus came and shook me all up. He rocked my world right up until I fell to my knees and prayed a sincere prayer for possibly the first time ever. After that, prayer became more important to me. But I am ashamed to say that after nearly twenty years, not much has changed in the way of my prayer life.

Here’s the thing – I have all sorts of excuses and I am sure you do too. Shortly after I was saved, I met and married my husband. We prayed together, but he did a lot more of the out loud praying because I always stumble over my words when I pray out loud. (I still do.) But then a year later, a baby arrived and then two years after that, another one. And since then, every waking moment has been mostly taken up by the demands of young children, and then later, the special demands of having two autistic children. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still believe that prayer is important. Open communication with God is the only way I can survive this life.

In a typical day, I will be up by 7 a.m. and I will crawl back into my bed around 11 p.m. That is a total of sixteen waking hours, for anyone who isn’t good at math (hey, no judgement, I am right there with you). During the run of the day I will do any of the following – plan and prepare meals, attend a medical appointment, go to work, do several loads of laundry, grocery shop, organize meetings, answer teachers e-mails (and others!), serve in a ministry, spend time with my children, spend time with my husband, spend time with my friends, crochet and watch tv. Let’s be real here – sometimes when I’m tired, overworked, or emotionally spent, the last two items on that list will take precedence. All of the other items on that list or either necessary or important, but the last two are things that I do just for fun. Instead of doing the one thing that I would need most during those times, I resort to what is called the veg list. Now, you and I both know that everybody has a veg list – it’s what you do when you really don’t want to do anything. Whether that be taking a nap, scrolling through social media, reading a novel, or just sitting in front of the TV doing nothing but binge watching Netflix. When you have a bad prayer habit, your veg list will always take precedence.

So, now that you’ve heard my excuses, what exactly is my prayer habit, you ask? Thinking my prayers aren’t good enough. Didn’t expect that one, did you? Neither did I. This actually started out very different from what it’s become because sometimes God breaks through with a different message.

When I started writing, I thought my bad prayer habits were what I call snippet prayers and prayer bursts. Snippet prayers come and go throughout the day, like random conversations with God. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. You’re at the grocery store, crossing items off your list when you catch a glimpse of someone or something that reminds you to pray. So you quickly have a chat with God and pray for that someone or something and then go on your way. These snippet prayers can happen multiple times per day, as you think of things you need to pray about.

Similarly there’s the whole idea of prayer bursts. These are longer than snippets but still very short. Prayer bursts are when you feel deeply compelled to pray about something but you lack commitment to really pray about it, so whenever it crosses your mind you pray about it passionately for the few minutes you have available.

I thought these kinds of prayers were wrong. I thought they weren’t good enough, because it made me anything but a prayer warrior. I watched the movie war room – the one where the old lady prays in her closet? It was a powerful movie, bit at the end all I could think about was there was just no way I could do that. To lock myself away and pray for hours. And if we are honest, if I tried that today, I’d probably doze off within thirty minutes. I’m a permatired special needs mom who averages five hours of sleep a night. (For those doing the math, that’s about two hours of lost sleep somewhere in there for various reasons). A quiet, calm undistributed environment and I’ll be snoozing whether I want to be or not.

I belong to a praying church. Never before have I been to a church where we pray so much. And I love it. Our church is called Christ Central, and how can we make Christ central in our church if He’s not central in our lives? And how can He be the center of our lives if we aren’t constantly seeking Him in prayer? The heart of the matter is this – we have the unique privilege to ask our Father for all our heart desires. We have the opportunity to daily sit at the feet of a King who can change everything. EVERYTHING. But we don’t always take advantage of such a special gift, do we?

I’ve seen the power of prayer before my very eyes. I’ve seen people healed from sickness, broken relationships restored, financial crises reversed. I’ve seen hope restored, faith strengthened and love enriched. All because people who were dedicated to praying through tough situations really and truly prayed.

At end of my time, I want to stand before God knowing full well that He’s heard my voice calling out to Him constantly and without ceasing. I wanted to actually learn how to pray. But the thing I was missing, that thing I didn’t really understand was that I already did. True prayer begins in the heart. Charles Spurgeon said this:

Prayer with the lip, prayer with bended knee, and uplifted hand is worth nothing if the heart is absent. Prayer as a mere matter of form and routine is but the husk,
heart-work is the kernel. Words are the oyster shell, the desire of the heart is the pearl. Do not imagine that the Lord looks down with any pleasure upon the tens of thousands of forms of prayer, whether liturgical or extempore, which are presented to Him without heart—such forms rather weary Him than worship Him. They are not adoration, but provocation. The God of truth can never accept an untruthful
devotion. Our prayers must flow from our heart or they will never reach the heart of God.

Oh, that my prayers would reach His heart! Oh, that He would break my heart for what breaks His.

I thought I was a terrible pray-er, but I’m not sure that’s true. If someone asks me to pray for them, I do so not because it will make them feel (or me) better. I do it because heart longs for God to work change in lives. My heart aches for them. And out of my aching heart flows short, sweet words of compassion. Words of love, pleading before God or them.

I am not a terrible pray-er after all. I’m just a girl coming before God with an open heart. A heart that seeks His face, His love, His compassion, His mercy, His amazing grace. My prayers may not be eloquent, but they’re everything else. And that’s okay, because He delights in each one.

If you missed the introduction, or hearing from the Telling Hearts, then we invite you to follow this link:collaborative series: Prayer


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