When will we ever know if our prayer life cuts the muster; is good enough, long enough, or deeply intimate enough? I don’t think we were ever meant to, not this side of heaven. But until then this is what I know. He wants us to enjoy Him, in the unique way He’s created us to experience Him.
As a new Christian I looked for inspiration to pray by reading biographies of men and women from past generations. One of my favorites was John Hyde, a.k.a Praying Hyde, twenty years pioneer missionary to India. When he was forced to return in poor health a doctor gasped at his x-ray. “What have you been doing John? Your heart has shifted out of place!” Only Hyde knew how many hours he lay pronate before God. When I first read that, I remember thinking, my God, he prayed himself to death! John’s example of rising at 4am to start the day in prayer inspired me to try it out. About a week later I landed in urgent care! The lesson? It’s ok to get inspiration from others further on the journey, but not wise to try and emulate them.
Over the years I’ve discovered that I don’t need to confine prayer to time. All of life can be a prayer. This morning on my morning run, I heard the sound of a red-breasted woodpecker. When I looked up, there it was, ‘oh Lord, thank you for such beauty’. Prayer. What I’m not suggesting is to shirk the value of dedicated time in prayer, which so richly fuels our devotional life. A prayer life can inhabit both, can be symbiotic in nature, one complimenting the other, the other giving space and freedom to express our deepest selves to God. That’s why the first order of business toward a God honoring prayer life is getting the impish monkey off our back that chatters and annoys us, suggesting we don’t pray well enough or long enough. The Lord’s prayer wasn’t given with an hour glass attached. Prayer as life, life as prayer; it’s relationship with God, in each unique person he has fashioned. There won’t be seminars on how to pray in heaven. He wants us to learn that here.
But there’s a hitch to all of this. There will be seasons God calls us to pray more, and more urgently. It’s mysterious, because our circumstances haven’t changed. What we often forget is that He sees around corners.
For the year leading up to my heart issues, my journal was laden with tender words from God. Then in January, after several medical procedures, it was determined I had coronary heart disease. To complicate things, I was going into Atrial Fibrillation (AF) almost every day, where my heart would race, jump in my chest, and leave me exhausted. Several weeks of insomnia followed. My walk with God suddenly was in the valley of the shadow. To call it a dark night is too mild, it was torture, and it had me on the ropes. Fast forward to about month ago, when a friend confided surprise that I had taken such a deep turn, because as he put it, ‘I thought you were a man of prayer.’ I could only reply, “that’s the only reason I got through it.” God had gotten me ready for what I never dreamed would happen.
At times God will prod us to pray, because he knows we will need the investment of love and hope that prayer brings to the heart. In short order we will be tested to the limits of our strength, because it’s new steps beyond our strength he needs us to take. By adjusting our life rhythms to wait on Him, and listen, he will deposit what we need. No longer will we hear the monkey chatter, ‘have you prayed long or well enough.’ We will hear only two words coming from our lips, and those words will be, thank you! Offered from a heart more in love with our Father who saw around a corner, and who’s mercy equipped us through prayer for what He had prepared us to walk through.