I’ve learned a lot about prayer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 7, 2014

Most mornings, I walk a mile or more on my treadmill.  On the small shelf where the treadmill tracks my calories, time, and how far I’ve walked, there’s a small spiral notebook.

It’s a list of people, places, ministries, and other subjects that fill four pages of the notebook.  By the time I pray through this list, I’ve usually walked at least a mile – sometimes more depending on urgent needs in the lives of people I know.

I call it “my walk of faith” because it helps me accomplish two things I need to do on a regular basis – spiritual exercise and physical exercise.  My walk includes time of thanking God for His blessings and for the “day He has made” (Psalm 118:24).

My earliest recollections about prayer come from the dinner table and saying the blessing over the food, usually with the words “God is great, God is good….”  Then, like most children, I learned, “Now I lay me down to sleep….”

As I’ve grown through the years in age and in my personal relationship with Jesus, I’ve learned more about prayer.  Time spent in prayer must be a priority.  There’s an old saying that’s proven true, “A day hemmed in prayer is less likely to come unraveled.”

I believe God always answers prayer; but in His way, not mine.  I believe God is never too late; but often I must learn to patiently trust Him.  Recently, God answered a prayer I’ve been praying for five years.  I never gave up and continued to pray specifically for a person in need.

Author/Minister Bill Hybels suggests God’s four answers to prayer.  If the request is wrong, God says, “No.”  If the timing is wrong, God says, “Slow.”  If I am wrong, God says, “Grow.”  But if the request is right, the timing is right and I am right, God says, “Go.”

I’ve learned much about prayer from reading the prayers recorded in the Bible.  When I do not have the words to express a prayer, I sometimes pray a verse of Scripture that applies to the situation and include the person’s name.  At times, I cry out to God, weeping instead of words.  I’ve also learned a lot from people who have studied the subject.

Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors, wrote a book a few years ago titled, “Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference?”  He states, “Prayer is a declaration of dependence on God.”  He goes on to say, “Prayer is cooperation with God, a consent that opens the way for grace to work.”  Yancey writes, “In prayer I shift my point of view from my own selfishness…..Prayer is the act of seeing reality from God’s point of view.”

One of the most important things I’ve learned through the years about prayer is that it’s a two-way conversation with God.  I’ve learned that if I will be quiet, He will speak in a still, small Voice – reminding me of a Scripture promise or an answer to prayer in the past.

Prayer does make a difference.  James 5:16 promises, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much.”