The prayer chain can be a source of immense blessing and spiritual breakthrough. Prayer group on a Wednesday night may bring about healing and intervention that can only be explained by the almighty power of God. Getting on our knees is essential. Prayer is the key that unlocks the door to speaking with our heavenly Father.
Yet, so often, we get prayer all wrong. Prayer becomes the adult equivalent of a child's Christmas list to Santa. It fills up quickly with the things we want and think we "need." We end up completely missing the point of a prayer life. We hone in on the blessings side of prayer and miss the communication and relationship side that God is longing for us to embrace. Prayer is our conversation with God, it is our sharing with Him and His sharing with us. It is a two-way communication. It is this give and take - this intimacy - that we miss when we focus solely on asking for the next thing on the list.
In this life we are guaranteed to have needs and it is only natural and right that we seek God and talk to Him about those things. In the Bible we are instructed to call on the Lord and we are promised that He hears us. Psalm 148:18 says, "The LORD is near to all them that call on him, to all that call on him in truth." When we have a need, be it physical, emotional or spiritual, God wants us to seek Him and His face. He wants us to bring our cares and burdens to Him so that He can carry them. Does that mean He is going to give us the answer we want with the snap of His fingers and the click of our heels? Not a chance. God's timing and ways are not ours. Just because we carry everything to Him in prayer does not mean we will get everything we want, the way we want it.
And therein lies the deeper, true purpose of prayer. It is not to get what we want and the outcome we want. It is to get to know God better. It is to become so entwined and connected to Him that we abandon our own wants and desires and rest in His ways, His plan and His will for our lives. Prayer provides the avenue that we must traverse on the road to surrendering our human ways. It is only when we have become one with God that we truly lay down our right to ourselves and our flawed perspective of how our lives should be. Through prayer, we get to know the one who has the perfect plan and who knows what we need long before we ever think to ask for it. At the same time, God knows what we don't need and what would actually be detrimental to our well being. In those times, we can be spared the difficulty and despair of the wrong road taken if we are so connected with Christ that we lay down our ways and allow God to work out His plan. In the end, His way is always best.
Our prayer life is not meant to be a laundry list of the things we hope God will give us or things we would like Him to change about our circumstances. Prayer is the intimate relationship we have with God. It is our opportunity to talk with Him and get to know who He is. Scripture tells us a lot about the character of God but having an intimate, personal relationship takes more then reading scriptures. It takes one-on-one time. We see this clearly with our earthly relationships. Husbands and wives marry after they have gotten to know one another. Entering into marriage they vow to take on the responsibility of overcoming problems and difficulties which will undoubtedly include discussions and take time and attention. Sometimes we overlook these same principles when it comes to our relationship with God. We want all the good that comes from the marriage yet we don't put in the time. How can we expect to know and understand God without communing with Him and truly listening? Not just rattling off our frustrations but listening in to hear from Him. The same care that we give to our earthly relationships needs to apply to our most important relationship of all: the one with our creator and father.
If we truly engage in this kind of prayer life we will see that the whole dynamic of what we pray for changes. The list is shortened. The desires are different. The wants are replaced with praise. Instead of seeking more for our own lives we start seeking out more of God's face, more of His character and more of His will. When we truly enter into a true intimate, personal, deep relationship with God we want more of Him and less of the things of this earth. The desires for physical comforts, healing, possessions and success take a back seat to the overwhelming passion to become more Christ-like and see more of God's greatness.
Will life always be butterflies and roses when you enter into this type of communing with God? Certainly not. God never promises us a smooth, easy ride here in this life. In fact, He forewarns us that this life is going to have its struggles and difficulties. He has given us fair warning. But He has also provided endless support, comfort and peace for those struggles. When we are resting in Him we will find that even the daunting, trying times of life can be filled with peace and contentment. When we are resting in God we don't need earthly comforts - we have the one true comfort.
Jesus gave us the blueprint for prayer. He laid out just how we are to pray and He put it into action throughout the scriptures. God desires a relationship with us that goes beyond a wish list - He wants to talk with us, get to know us and reveal more of Himself to us in the process. By following Christ's example and truly seeking God through prayer, we can know Him in extraordinary ways and experience the joy, comfort and peace He promises to lavish on us abundantly when we ask.