Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Conversation With God

Dear Friends,

You learn theology in seminary or Bible college, but you learn how to be a pastor in a mentoring relationship with a pastor. My mentor had been an associate pastor at a large Mega-Church. He was now a senior pastor and he would tell me, “Watch me and do everything I do.” I was going to learn how to be a Pentecostal pastor!

He was a fervent pray-er! His voice swooped up to a crescendo and down again. Prayer was loud, intense and dramatic. As his fervency increased, his hands would tremble, spittle would fly out of his mouth and he would start to shake. He said the spittle and the shaking was the Holy Spirit coming on him as he prayed. I didn't doubt that, but was always cautious to not stand too close in order to avoid being anointed with the holy spittle.

I’m a quick learner and soon had the church language down. As my voice swooped up in volume and fervency, the people would shout “yes” and “amen” as I prayed in church.*

My best friend and accountability partner came from a liturgical church tradition and we would pray together. “Vouchsafe to grant us Thy blessings and lift Thy rod and staff as Thou saveth me from mine enemies,” he would soberly intone in a resonant voice. “In the name of JEEZ-US, I BIND the demonic powers and CRUSH every stronghold under my feet,” I would shout as my right hand began to tremble. And God looked down from Heaven and said, “What’s up with these guys?”

I know you don’t pray that way, but many of us learned how to pray by listening to others like my friend and I had done. And, as soon as prayer becomes a verbal recitation based on a learned technique, it stops being prayer and becomes a performance. And, God intended for prayer to be an intimate conversation with your Creator. At the very heart of authentic prayer is you – standing spiritually naked and vulnerable before God.

Sometimes our desire to pray the right thing, the right way, is out of hope that our prayers will be “effective” and have a positive effect on our lives and the lives of our loved ones. But God is more concerned about our prayers being “affective.” To affect means an emotional influence and a tender attachment or fondness. God wants our intimate prayer time with Him to have a tender and deep influence on us. To not just know His love but to feel His love.

If we find ourselves desiring a deeper and more meaningful prayer life, the first step may be to set aside everything we've learned about “how” to pray. Prayer is a conversation, not a technique. And, we will never have a truly authentic, fruitful conversation if we have to be concerned about having to say the right things, the right way.

We set aside “quality time” for our loved ones and so we set aside our devotional time with Him. We go to our sacred space – in our  home, in our garden – in full expectation that we will be met by Him. We tell Him we adore Him, we praise Him, we ask forgiveness of our sins and we thank Him. Or we just tell Him about our day. He knows our needs but we tell Him anyway. We speak to Him in our own words. Words that may not come easily. “Jesus..I want..I don’t know..But You..Just help me Jesus..” There are no fine phrases. No “church” words. We stop. We listen. We wait. Maybe tears come. Maybe we hear His voice. Maybe we just sit in His presence. As long as our heart is occupied with God, whether in speech or in silence, that is enough.

Whenever we attempt to engage God through a prayer method, the focus is on our actions and we have become preoccupied with ourself. But, authentic, tender prayer that is developed in our quiet devotional time is preoccupation with God.

Prayer is a conversation between two people who love each other. A conversation that flows naturally out of our heart. When our spirit connects with His.  Amen?

* Please note that I am not denying the work of the Holy Spirit but when we hear the prayers and spiritual language of church leaders and their followers sounding the same, it’s not the Holy Spirit but a learned technique that results in a ministry “style”.

The AMEN Corner is a weekly devotional for the family and friends of New Hope Family Church. It is intended for this devotional to be strengthening, encouraging or comforting and your comments too should be for the glory of God and reflect the intended purpose of these posts.

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