How did you feel the last time you whispered, “Amen”?
Sometimes, I finish praying and hope I said the right words. If I’m not careful, a prayer that started with promise begins to trail off and becomes more like a task to complete rather than a sacred time with my Heavenly Father. I begin to wish there was a sign-up sheet for Prayer 101.
I recently asked God for some help, and the answer came in the form of a family hike.
On the day of our excursion, sunrise greeted my group of five as we arrived at the trailhead, fresh and enthusiastic. Excited chatter filled the mountain air as we pulled our backpacks filled with water bottles and dehydrated lunches from the 4×4. I had always wanted to take the eleven-mile trek from Crested Butte to Aspen over Maroon Bells Pass. Our party included three of our adult children and a daughter-in-law, which gave the day trip the potential to be monumental.
Every Indian paintbrush, columbine, and even the towering skunk cabbage was worthy of a photograph. We were hiking one of heaven’s finest vistas on earth.
That was mile one.
At mile 4.5, my breathing became quite labored, and my concentration drifted from the carpet of wildflowers to the trail ahead and, eventually, the summit. The sunrays that had been a welcome source of warmth earlier that morning began to reveal their true character. They threatened to burn any inch of my skin that wasn’t slathered in sunscreen. Rocks became unsteady underneath my feet, and I began to feel the effects of hiking at 11,500 feet. I became the quietest member of our group.
As we approached the summit, and my legs began to quiver. We were a little over halfway. Self-encouragement became my hiking partner. I continually repeated You’ve got this!
And yet, my knees seemed to age with every step magically. I became irritable.
Another picture of another wildflower? I breathlessly muttered to myself.
How many photos do they seriously need of skunk cabbage? It’s everywhere! I internally grumbled as my daughter stopped and pulled out her phone.
And suddenly, the journey wasn’t about the mountain. The trip was about me.
As we continued to mile 8, I realized I needed an intervention. My feet were hot, my knees were burning, and my, my, my…
When We Focus on Our Heavenly Father, Our Prayer Changes from a List of Needs to a Conversation of Trust
Even the disciples struggled with prayer. They asked Jesus, “Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1). Prayer was not a new concept for them. They simply wanted guidance.
The first mention of prayer in the Bible is found in Genesis 4:26. The final prayer of the Bible is found in Revelation 22:20. The first prayer, the last prayer, and all 648 prayers in between focus on God.
Jesus answered the disciples’ request and provided us with the perfect prayer model in Luke 11:1-4. This model offers five petitions—and all five focus on God
“Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”
God’s name and His everlasting glory.
“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
God’s eternal will.
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
“Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
“For Thine is the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever.”
The glory and sovereignty of God.
When we approach our prayer life as an opportunity to share with God our gratitude for Him, our reverence for Him, and our love for Him, we voice our devotion to our Heavenly Father. Our words become a conversation of trust as opposed to a list of needs.
When my prayers feel like a one-handed clap, I not only need to direct my focus back onto my Heavenly Father, I need to wait in stillness for His response. Meditation encourages us to descend from the busyness of life as we delight in God’s presence.
Again, it is like my time on the mountain–at the moment I was ready to give in, we reached a beautiful little creek with glorious, cold water that had been snow just hours prior. I sat down, took a deep breath, and plunged my feet into the rushing water. In the moment, I forgot myself and delighted in the beautiful stream that the mountain provided. I wanted to linger and feel the soothing stream wash away my pain.
Although prayer is referenced in the Bible 375 times, meditation is mentioned a mere 23 times. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines meditation as the verb “imagine, mourn, mutter, roar, sore, speak, study.”
It sounds complicated, right? You are probably an expert at it; you just haven’t realized it yet. Maybe this will point it out.
Take a deep breath. Now, remember the last time you worried. You were so afraid that the subject tumbled from your brain to your heart, then back to your brain in a never-ending cycle. You used every bit of intellect to dissect the situation, every emotion to understand it.
Now, replace that worry with the voice of your Savior. Let Him tumble from your heart to your brain in that same never-ending cycle. Use your intellect and emotion to understand Him. Delight in Him during the stillness of your prayer. Meditation is simply continuing to focus on the presence of the One who answers prayer and remaining with Him for a while.
He is the One who loved us so much; He left heaven and died on a cross. When we direct our heart towards the Lord in prayer, when we’re thirsting for His rush of cooling water, then we get to experience His glory. It is here He pours His presence over us and encourages us to delight in Him.