Here’s a typical scenario. The morning alarm goes off—for the third time. You know that you can’t hit the snooze alarm again. You are already late. Something in your morning routine will have to go.
Although you know you shouldn’t, you decide that you just don’t have time for your morning devotion of prayer and Bible reading. “God will understand,” you think to yourself, “I’ll make it up tonight.”
Unfortunately, when the night arrives, the stress and busyness of the day causes you to flop into bed in exhaustion. Before you drift off to sleep, you echo a quick prayer and think that you’ll do better tomorrow.
Prayer is a relationship
The above scenario is all too real and too common. It’s not that we don’t love God, it’s just that we’re swamped and stressed with way too much on our plate. The problem is we treat prayer as an obligation that can be made up at a later time. Let’s look at it a different way.
Instead of an obligation, think about prayer in terms of a relationship. Imagine a marriage relationship where one of the spouses said, “honey, I just don’t have time to spend with you today—let’s shoot for tomorrow.” That relationship, at best, would be strained and wanting. Spending time with a spouse or loved one should not be an obligation, but rather, an opportunity for intimacy.
In the same way, prayer should be within the context of a love relationship. God loves us. He wants to spend time with us. The “Greatest Commandment” is to love God with all of our hearts.” Even before obedience, God wants our love (John 14:15). I picture the Father in Luke 15 anxiously waiting for his son to come home—and rejoicing upon his return. All relationships require time and sacrifice for them to be healthy and fulfilling.
Prayer should be genuine
To put it simply, prayer is talking to God. Prayer must not become systematic or a formula. We also don’t need to use terms like, “thee” and “thou” unless that’s how you normally speak. God wants to hear our heart.
Jesus said that we should address God as “our Father” (Matt 6:9). A father/child relationship provides the context of intimacy. We speak to God as if we were addressing a loving father.
I am the father of four children. I chuckle as I imagine one of them coming up and saying, “Oh, good father, thou art highly-exalted among the parents. I thank thee for thy bountiful blessings and thy marvelous provisions that thou hast provided according to thy merciful kindness and providential care.”
I do want my children to address me with respect, but I certainly want them to address me from the context of our relationship. They are my children. I would be offended if all they did was contact me when they needed something. However, I do long for a close relationship with them and would attempt to meet a particular need in their life as I have opportunity.
Prayer is two-way communication
Can you imagine a relationship where only one person did the talking? That’s not much of a relationship. Naturally, the Bible reminds us that God wants us to come to Him with our needs and concerns. Like any father, he wants us to come to Him and ask. By doing this, we are reminded that God is the source of all our blessings and provision.
At the same time, it is not necessary to feel that we need to bring a huge laundry list of needs before God. He knows our needs (Matt 6:8). He also knows our hearts and what is best for us. In addition to asking—we also need to be quiet before God and listen.
Some of my most meaningful times in prayer have been when I have decided to get alone with God and just be quiet. I begin by quietly mediated on God’s goodness and kindness telling Him how much long to be with Him. Sometimes, I even sing or listen to music and then I be quiet and listen.
God does not speak to me audibly, but he does speak to my heart. Sometimes, he brings to my remembrance various Scriptures or Bible stories. He also reminds me of how He has taken care of me in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
Like anything else, if left unchecked, prayer can become routine and feel like an obligation. However, we must remember that God gave us prayer as an opportunity to connect with Him within the context of a loving relationship. He is our loving heavenly Father and He longs to spend time with us. Not taking that opportunity is like saying no to a closer, more intimate relationship with God.