As I sit in my office to begin writing this month’s column, my eyes are drawn to the closet door. On it are numerous heart-shaped sticky notes on which I have written names. It is my “wall of prayers.”
I am having a hard time sitting still at the desk. I would much rather be praying than writing right now. Some of those hearts are now answered prayers – my mother-in-law’s house sold, and so did the house of my friends who will soon move to Africa as missionaries. I see the name of my son’s coach, hit by a car last fall and in ICU for many weeks, but who has had a remarkable recovery.
Some of those hearts may remain as requests on my door for quite awhile – the friend battling cancer, childless friends who desperately want a baby, the man who is searching to know the Lord, a friend struggling with depression, and a friend’s husband who does not have a job. There are a few hearts that remind me of prayers not answered the way I had hoped, such as the friend whose marriage is ending in divorce.
Praying wasn’t always such a big part of my life. I remember very clearly a day many years ago when I was at a gathering for mothers of young children. At the end of the meeting, we went around the room and people took turns praying out loud. I was shocked. I thought the pastor was the one who prayed, or else someone needed to plan carefully and write out a prayer ahead of time. This spontaneous prayer was fascinating to me. Regular people talking to God. But that’s the way it is supposed to be.
How my life has changed since that day. Praying is like breathing to me now, and I understand what 1 Thessalonians 5:17 means when it says to “pray without ceasing.” Sometimes those prayers are silent, and sometimes they are quick, like the one Nehemiah sent up as recorded in Nehemiah 2:4-5. “The king said to me, ‘What is it you want? Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king.”
Sometimes prayers are like those described in Romans 8:26, when the words just won’t come and “we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” Jesus taught the disciples to always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1), so I try to follow that example of being consistent and persistent in prayer.
I am a member of a Moms in Touch prayer group, and we start out with praising God, and then move into a time of silent confession so we can get our hearts right. After that are prayers of thanksgiving, and then finally the specific prayer requests using scripture. There is no special formula that must be followed for praying, but I have to wonder what God thinks when we bombard Him with our prayer requests and don’t stop to offer prayers of praise and thanksgiving as well. I got an e-mail recently that posed the question that if all we had right now was all we had thanked God for so far since getting up today, what would we have?
When I don’t take the time to pray, my stress level goes up as I attempt to do things in my own strength. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” When I pray, there is a peace in remembering that God is in control.
Prayer is not a magic formula to get what we want, and it is never supposed to be showy. It is connecting with God and trusting Him with the outcome. It is asking for, waiting for, and following His direction and leading, seeking His will above all else. Sometimes that can be hard, but faith is strengthened in the process. And as I see prayers answered, I am encouraged to keep on trusting ... and praying.
Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.