Sometimes prayer is hard. It seems like it shouldn’t be. The Lord’s Prayer appears so simple. Yet time and time again I find myself lost in prayer. What should I pray for? How do I pray? What are the “magic” words to make it work?
And maybe it would be easier if the outcomes of my prayers were more obvious. If what I prayed for automatically and miraculously occurred when I said “amen.” I mean, as I study the Scriptures, I see some amazing stories of prayer.
In Exodus 33, Moses prayed that God would show him His glory, and the glory of God Himself passed in front of Moses.
In 1 Kings 18, Elijah prayed for fire in verse 37, and it came down in verse 38.
In Acts 12, the church was praying for the release of Peter from prison, and the Lord rescued Peter and set him right on their doorstep.
For me, I’ve heard these Sunday School stories (and more) throughout my life. And I’m tempted to compare my spiritual journey to that of Moses, Elijah, and Peter. I’ve never seen the physical manifestation of God’s glory, God consume an altar with fire, or God send an angel to save me.
And I begin to believe the enemy’s lies that if my prayers do not cause some sort of immediate, amazing, supernatural event, then I must be doing something wrong.
I forget that Moses spent years exiled in the desert for murdering a man and tried to make excuses when God called him to return to Egypt. I forget that Elijah was a fugitive most of his life and felt alone and isolated, event to the point of death. I forget that Peter suffered guilt and shame from denying Jesus and struggled with overcoming his own racial prejudices.
Yes, God worked miracles in the lives of these men, but it wasn’t as if every day of their life was a Sunday School story. The miracle of their lives was their daily, difficult, faithful obedience. It was that even in the mundane, even in the ordinary, even when there was no glory, they sought after God.
I recently heard Steve Canfield, an evangelist with Life Action Ministries, preach, and something he said astonished and convicted me:
“It is possible that we the church are seeking an experience with God rather than seeking God Himself.”
I look at my life, my faith, my prayers, and I realize that often I am seeking an emotional experience—a supernatural, extraordinary revelation from God. So when my prayer, quiet time, and worship seem normal, mundane even, I believe I am missing something.
I see it in the church all over America. Some of the churches that are “popular” and bursting at the seams are those that promise an emotional high, an incredible encounter with God. Yes, God’s presence does fill His church, but what do you say to the person who is struggling in their faith and doesn’t “feel” God in these services? What do you say to the person who is reading God’s Word daily but doesn’t “hear” God speak to them like others say He does to them? What do you say to the person who prays but doesn’t “see” the miracles happening in their life?
What happens when our human senses don’t lead us to God, but, instead, cause us to doubt?
Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Faith is not living according to an emotional experience with God. It’s not basing our spiritual life on what we can sense with our eyes or ears. It’s not living for the moments of hair-raising spirituality. If those feelings and experiences are all that we seek, we’re going to miss a relationship with God in the mundane.
Some of you may experience an incredible miracle before your eyes. Some may hear the audible words of God. Some may feel the presence of God more tangibly than others. But that does not make them closer to God. God works differently in each of our lives; we are to be faithful to Him no matter how He reveals Himself to us.
As I close my eyes to pray again. I put aside the lie that I must feel God for my prayers to be valid. I disregard the enemy telling me that I must hear God’s voice for me to have a relationship with Him. I slay the falsehood that my spiritual journey is measured by the number of Sunday School story worthy experiences I have. My life of faith is built by the everyday, mundane prayers, filled with hope that my God is my God whether or not I can sense Him.
He is better than the sum of all His blessings.
Therefore, I “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,” and I “run with endurance for the race that is set before [me].” I look “to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of [my] faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).