Reset Your Prayer Life
Have you ever felt like your prayer life was dry and stale?
Is prayer one of those things, like exercise, where you know you SHOULD and it would be GOOD for you, but you just can't find the motivation?
Do you ever feel guilty because your prayer life is nothing but a “Honey-Do List” for God?
I understand completely how dry and hollow prayer can be, and I want to share a secret I learned that brought life and vitality back to my faith and my relationship with God.
I Should Be Good At This By Now, But...
If I haven't had the privilege of meeting you yet, let me give you a quick background. I’ve been active in church almost since the day I was born. Church was a centerpiece of my family’s culture. I went to a private Christian college. I served in church my whole adult life, doing everything from greeting to leading worship.
You would think I would have a rich, vibrant prayer life.
But for many years, I didn’t. I found it to be a boring, rote repetition of the same old, worn-out petitions. It was an obligation, not a relationship. My mind understood that it was a good thing to do, but I never cared enough about it unless I needed something. Any relationship that is selfish and need-based like that is naturally going to wither.
It took many years, but I finally found the keys to a meaningful prayer life.
In my work here at King’s Ransom Foundation, I have the privilege of praying with people almost every day, and people keep asking me how they can have a more effective prayer life. I want to share with you what I found.
Start From Zero
First of all, when it comes to prayer, no matter how long I’ve been doing it, I recognize that I am still the greenest rookie. My prayers still feel like the babblings of a toddler, but I thank God that, like the good Father He is, He understands what I’m trying to say.
Realize He’s A Person
I began talking to God in prayer like a trusted adult, instead of a far-off statue. I used normal words instead of formal church phrases. Then I took time to listen for a response. I knew I wouldn’t hear Him with my normal ears, but I learned to listen with my heart. He would bring Scripture verses to my mind, and I knew that was Him answering. We cultivated a relationship in the car, at work, and throughout the day, not just in a formal meeting setting.
Accept The Father
I had to accept Him as a Father. My biological father struggled with mental illness his whole life, and my step-father and I had a combative relationship until I was an adult, so the Father Wound in my life was deep. I called Him “dad” on purpose, even when I didn’t feel it. On several occasions, I sat in one chair and positioned another chair in front of me, carrying on a conversation with a person I couldn’t see, but trusted that He was there, because He gave me His Word that He was. One time, I physically curled up in a chair as if I were curling up in His lap. There I was: a grown man with children of my own, curled up in My Father’s lap like a sobbing baby.
You’d be amazed at how liberating that was. And how I learned to be real with him.
I found in the Psalms that David often complained to God. Out loud. Not in formal, kingly words; just outright whining. Give me a break already. And God accepted it. So I learned to tell God what I really thought and what I really wanted, instead of using the “thee’s” and “thou’s” of King James language. I said some things to Him that I wouldn’t want you to hear. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always have the nicest, Godliest thoughts in my head. I got real with Him about stuff. After all, it’s not like He didn’t already know.
The Quote That Cut Me
Before I got married (now 21 years ago!!!) and had (4!!) kids, I came across a quote that shook me deeply. Let’s be honest: it made me mad, and left me feeling like there was no way I could ever be a good Christian.
The quote was from German theologian Helmut Thielicke: “Sag mir, wie sehr du von den Leiden deines Mitmenschen weißt, und ich werde dir sagen, wie sehr du sie geliebt hast.”
I’m just being funny. He said, “Tell me how much you know of the sufferings of your fellow man and I will tell you how much you have loved them.”
I didn’t want to hear that.
I wanted to talk to God about my problems and my wishes and my to-do list and all that. As it turns out, He wanted to talk about someone else:
- He wanted to talk about people I didn’t want to forgive. He wanted me to understand their pain and their motivations.
- He wanted to talk about people I didn’t care about; people that couldn’t do anything to advance my personal goals.
- He wanted to talk about the poor, the lonely, the forgotten, the helpless.
That didn’t fit in my prayer agenda.
But, as it turns out, prayers get answered by faith and faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). So, if I want my faith to work, my love has to be engaged. Not caring about other people shuts down your prayer life (1 Peter 3:7).
Looking Outside To Grow Inside
Over time, He made it clear to me that, when He and I talk, my interests and desires are only going to be addressed to the extent that I bring up other people’s needs and desires.
(He also told me never to show up for prayer without a notepad, but that’s a topic for another time.)
Then He raised the stakes.
It wasn’t enough to pray for the poor, the homeless, and the trafficked. Praying for the hungry doesn’t feed them anymore than retweeting them would. I had to put my money where my mouth was if I wanted my love walk to charge my faith walk. He said if I see someone in need and do nothing to help them, I am an accomplice in their suffering.
That got me motivated. There is never a shortage of suffering in the world, and someone needs me to do what I know to do on their behalf.
What Is Love, Anyway?
If you have a King James Bible, open to First Corinthians 13 sometime. It’s a fascinating study. Everyone knows that chapter. It’s the “love chapter.” They read it at weddings, sing songs about it, and write whole books about it. Love is patient, love is kind...and so on.
Or is it?
King James uses a different word there. Instead of “love” it says “charity.”
Think about how we use that word today. It’s different from the way they used it in 1602. People call King’s Ransom Foundation a charity...and it is. Don’t get me wrong. We think of charity as a tax designation -- “charitable giving” -- but that takes the heart out of the equation. Charity is meeting the needs of another, especially those who can never do anything for you in return. An example of charity is feeding the poor.
How To Get Your Prayers Answered
So, let’s review.
Prayers get answered by faith. Faith works by love. Love is charity. Charity is meeting someone else's needs.
Feeding the poor is love, so feeding the poor makes your faith work. Working faith gets your prayers answered.
James turned it on its head and said it this way: “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26).
Faith without love/charity is dead. Useless. Ineffective.
Love is caring for the needs of others as you care for your own needs, so self-serving prayer is not love, and therefore has no effect. And praying about someone’s needs without meeting those needs to the best of your ability is dead. Useless. Ineffective.
Here’s The Tip Of The Sword
Now that I have your mind all tangled up, let me summarize it here: if you want to have a rich, vibrant, active prayer life, get to know your Heavenly Father and what is important to Him. He says that what is important to Him is caring for those who can’t care for themselves (Isaiah 58). As you look out for His priorities in the earth, He will look out for your priorities. When you take the focus off your own discomfort and look to the pain of others, you will find yourself more and more motivated to cry out to God on their behalf. And that is a prayer He will listen to.
Where To Send Your Love
As it turns out, I know of a great charity that exists exclusively for the purpose of caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the trafficked, and the forgotten around the world. King’s Ransom Foundation is fulfilling the Father’s first priority in the earth. What’s more, King’s Ransom is privately funded, so 100% of every gift you send in goes directly to the people who need it most:
- The single mothers raising their children in the garbage dumps of Nicaragua.
- The widows in Israel trying to raise their families after their husbands were killed by terrorists.
- Villages in the plains of Africa and the ruins of Haiti, who are dying of starvation and poisoning because they can’t get clean water.
- Little boys and girls around the world who are being sold for sex with perverted grown men.
- Boys in India whose parents were beaten, raped, and burned to death for their Christian faith.
Here’s my single most-powerful tip for a more vibrant prayer life: get involved in meeting the needs of the hurting around the world. Visit kingsransom.org to learn more.