Last week I was sitting in church when my pastor said something I’ve still been rolling around in my mind. “Pray WITH God, not TO Him.” What!? This really made me take a step back and think. How often do we reach to our Father when something isn’t going right, when we need help, when we have a request? How often do we approach the conversation like a child begging his/her parent for a gift, or worse, how often do we speak with expectations, wanting something simply for our own selfish benefit?
I’m so guilty of this. Even in my most well-meaning prayers, I feel like I’m talking to God, requesting something from Him (even if it is on His terms, or by His will) when I really should be speaking with.
This should be more of a conversation than a one-sided list of requests or thoughts. And when I pray am I taking a step back? Quieting myself? Really listening? Or am I just blabbing on about what I think, what I want, what I need?
The act of praying is honestly confusing. We feel silly talking to someone we can’t physically see. We don’t quite know how to pray—Are we supposed to be alone? In moments before sleep? In silence? Surrounded with people? And what are we supposed to ask for? Is there a right and wrong? And if there is, how do we know?
All these questions have gone through my mind plenty of times, but what I’ve realized about prayer is that it’s not as much the specifics, but our intentions. Are we praying with hearts that are open and willing to accept the truth, or are we searching for answers to things we specifically want? Are we worried so much about following the ‘rules’ that we aren’t coming to God with vulnerability and humility? Are we praying with hopes to be closer to Him, or for everything to make sense the way we want it to? Are we trusting that the answers we receive are for our benefit, even if they aren’t what we desire?
Praying with God means we’re opening to Him as if He were a family member, a friend. We don’t come with rules; we talk with open hearts and minds willing to be led. We talk expecting a response, but not a response on our terms. We have a conversation, not a one-sided monologue. We speak, but listen equally.
This change in perspective is transformative. Not only because it shifts our selfish desires out of our prayers, but because it reveals the truth—that our Father wants a relationship with us.
No longer are we to be concerned over how ‘long’ or how ‘much’ we pray, whether we’re doing it ‘right,’ or who the ‘best’ Christian is because he or she prays the most; instead, prayer becomes about what it was intended to be in the first place—a connection being built between us and our Savior.
Love not requests; a conversation, not a demand.
What if the next time we prayed, we were open, asking God specifically what He wanted to reveal to us, rather than assuming we know best? What if the next time we silenced our hearts and asked Him to guide the direction instead of trying to take the lead? What if we waited for an answer, like we do in a conversation? What if we trusted He would lead us the right way in His perfect time?
This week I’m trying to change the way I pray. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my prayer requests because I know God is a merciful God and doesn’t want terrible things to happen to us. But it means I’m redefining how I talk to Him, how I listen, and what and the way I ask for things.
I won’t hinge my faith on whether or not my prayers are answered; I won’t focus only on my plan and disregard His. And I won’t be shaken when life gets tough. I will continue to pray with expectation in the sense that I know my Father loves me. But I will not pray as if He were a genie granting wishes on my terms.
I will pray with faith, knowing that He has a plan even when I don’t understand it. And I will pray with Him, my eyes and ears open to the truths He will reveal.