I blame the actual arrival of today. As long as it stayed tomorrow, things were okay. Things were hunky-dory. Tomorrow. You can bet your bottom dollars that every single time it will insist on metamorphizing into today. There is always that deadline you must meet today, that whatchamacallit due today, that thing you absolutely must do today, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. And when we do have free time, we frequently use it for me time, for some form of entertainment, for chilling, yo. My personal happy places: doing jigsaw puzzles, taking walks, reading, playing board games, watching T.V., and, of course, sleeping. When I can swing it I do stuff like going to movies, hanging with friends and family, and going out to eat. That sort of thing. These are nice pastimes, really, but Christians shouldn’t be cramming all of their free time with just entertainment. In fact, the serious, need-to-do sector of life needs to prioritize time with God, as well. He needs to be at the center of all of it.
Time with God should not be something we squeeze in only if it is convenient. But for most of us, that is very sadly the case. Unfortunately, God is often a last resort. It is so much easier to seek help from someone or something we can see, hear, and/or touch than from someone we cannot. Turning to God might be a little easier if we take developing that relationship a lot more seriously. I certainly have a long way to go in that area, but there are three things I know without a doubt are imperative keys to having a personal relationship with God. All three of these examples are drawn from great examples of prayer throughout the Bible.
1. Make Your Daily Relationship With God a Priority That Will Hold Up No Matter What
The Bible gives a multiplicity of good examples of how to pray in any circumstance. The book of Daniel tells us the story of Daniel and his three friends who time and time again showed that they feared and revered God above all else. Everything else—including their very lives—came at best a very distant second. In Chapter 6 it tells how Daniel spent time in prayer three times a day no matter what. And this was no secret; his political opponents used it against him when the king decreed that only he should be worshiped and that all who disobeyed this decree—and their families—would be thrown into the lion’s den. These opponents, they obviously knew Daniel well enough that this would not affect his routine and that he would continue to pray to God. There evil scheme was banking on this assumption. That in itself says a lot. And they were right, he prioritized his divine relationship to such a degree that nothing ever swayed it. I like to think he didn’t even have to think about it. That is just one awesome biblical example; there are many others.
The recorded prayers of these great men, they are all so honed and well worded that it can be intimidating. You might think that God will only listen to immaculately worded prayers. Although He deserves to have our best prayers, He will not ignore clumsy, stilted, but reverent prayers. God will always accept even the clumsiest and most awkward of prayers from the heart of a devoted Christian.
2. Let Him Be the One to Hear Your Every Need
Check this out:
“Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 4:1)
This was one small prayer uttered by David. It is only one example of the many very honest and open prayers to God by the giants of Scripture. And that is the same kind of honesty, openness, and urgency with God that we need. We need to crave His attention every single day, all day. This passage is part of a prayer David prayed in a time of distress. David, godly David, great and powerful David, he was faulty just like us; the Bible is open about his weaknesses and mistakes. But despite his failings and times of selfishness, he trusted the Lord and depended on His guidance and help. Like many men in the Bible who prayed to God, David was extremely open and honest in his prayers, sometimes brutally so. These men, they understood that God is the ultimate confidante. We can say things to Him that we can’t say to anyone else—sometimes things we can’t even admit to ourselves. We can and should bring before Him our every need.
3. Be Aware This Divine Relationship Isn’t Only About Your Physical Needs (and/or Desires)
I’m a fan of The King of Queens. One of my favorite episodes involves Doug and Carrie attending church. Carrie is particularly very reluctant about the whole thing until she prays for a raise and immediately afterward gets a cellphone call that she got one. After that, she treats prayer like her personal good luck charm. She even tells Doug that she can’t tell him what she prayed for or it won’t come true. A resentful Doug starts praying to undo her prayers. Back and forth they go, waging a “prayer” battle with each other. A wizard’s duel, if you will.
Yeah, it doesn’t work like that. We may not be that bad, but it is easy to fall into turning prayers into a grocery list (“I want that and that and some of those and some of these, too—if it is your will, of course.”) or like Carrie, a good luck charm. God wants us to ask him for stuff, but he also desires praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and a genuine one-on-one relationship. Jesus taught the disciples a good example of prayer. We call it The Lord’s Prayer. There are two versions: one in Matthew, the other in Luke. Both are very similar with the Matthew version being a tad longer. Here is that longer version:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.”
This particular arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew has ten lines. Only one of those lines deals with the meeting of personal physical needs. By the inclusion of “give us this day our daily bread,” God obviously considers it an important component, but it is certainly not the only component. The majority is taken up by other things like adoration, prayer for the strengthening of God’s earthly ministry, confession, and prayer for the strength to resist evil. So when you are praying, don’t bog the entirety down with personal needs (or desires) and exclude or almost diminish the other important prayer factors. If your prayers are all about you and what you want, it is no wonder that imperative aspect of your divine relationship loses importance in our eyes.
God is our Father, our Heavenly Father. A continual, intimate relationship is so necessary. But while we should have a comfortable, daily converse with Him, we should keep in mind that He is the perfectly holy God, sovereign over all of His created universe. He is more than worthy of all of our worship. Many of the psalms—in a book chock full of prayers–were designed to be sung in worship services. While spending time openly talking to Him every day, keep in mind the magnitude of his awesome standing and that He is worthy of your continual worship and awe. He is worth everything and more.
P.S. – Let me reemphasize the fact that I am still struggling with this myself. If you aren’t, maybe you should.