December 2007 - Vol. 14

photo by Wojtek Solecki

 Daily prayer can be hard work, but the benefits far outweigh the cost

How can I find God and enjoy his presence? Scripture tells us that God is very near and desires a close personal relationship with us. In fact, God wants us to live with him every day and every moment of our lives. Scripture tells us that if we seek God, we will indeed find him. Psalm 27 says, “One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: to dwell in the LORD'S house all the days of my life; to gaze on the LORD'S beauty.”  

My experience tells me that this business of finding God, dwelling in his house, and seeing his beauty is hard work. God is always there looking for me, waiting to reveal himself, but sometimes there is a lot of me and other “noise” to get through first. 

I am learning that to find God, I need to be intentional in my search, specifically in the area of prayer. Making practical changes (waking up earlier for example) in order to allow more space for God has been very beneficial.

Ways of seeking God
Prayer comes in many forms in my church tradition: formal, written prayers, prayers said at certain times throughout the day, liturgy, praying the psalms, fasting, meditation. By taking advantage of all these forms, I now have multiple ways to seek God and to “remain in him” (John 15:5-6) throughout the day. 

In addition to what I pray, I have tried to look at how I pray. In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 6:19-20) he says, “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit …glorify God in your body.” God cares about the body, he became incarnate in a body, and he promises the resurrection of the body. I am a spiritual and physical being. I’ve made an effort to be purposeful in my physical attitude while praying so that my body too is praying: sitting, standing, kneeling, laying face down, raising my hands, etc. Being part of a charismatic people, this idea isn’t a new one for me. But transferring it from corporate charismatic worship to my personal prayer was not something I had made a regular practice of.  

Fasting is another way I have incorporated prayer into my entire day. I have discovered that fasting is a way of offering something up to God as a form of “praying constantly” (Thessalonians 5:16-18). Over the past year God has asked me to fast more frequently and from a variety of things. Going without food or drink for some length of time (right now its coffee), leaves me very aware that I am lacking something and sharpens my attention towards God.  

I have also made it a practice from time to time to fast from listening to music. I have used the time for prayer and intercession. Fasting from music gives me more opportunities for silence and for quieting my spirit. It helps me be more aware of the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and it makes entering into prayer easier.

Why do we pray?
Prayer challenges my assumptions, teaches me to obey God and trust in his word, and calls me to live in the daily reality of God’s love and truth. I may not encounter the glory that the disciples experienced when Jesus was transfigured before them. My prayer tends to be much more ordinary. But sometimes I do experience Jesus transfigured and it helps me persevere in living out my faith day by day, just as it helped the apostles to endure various trials, fears, confusion, and the contradictions of daily life. 

I do have lots of days when I wonder, “Why do I pray?” Is it because I want God to give me what I want, and maybe if I just pray long enough, my “will” will be done? Is it because I like praying and it is easy and I can sense God’s presence? Sometimes, but I am learning that it is more important to pray because God deserves it. It is in   prayer where my desire and God’s will meet, and where God changes my desires into his desires, transforming me little by little (whether I feel it or not). 

In the end, prayer is not about me but about God. It is about God’s action and my response to his action in my life. I often get it the wrong way around, but even then I find that God in his mercy, faithfulness, and love is still yearning, calling, and drawing me to seek him more and more. And the more I seek, the more I find that God is there to reveal his presence, speak his word, and pour out his love and grace. 

[Janice Firn lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA and serves on Kairos in North America, the international youth program of The Sword of the Spirit. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 2004 with a Master's of Social Work and currently works in hospital providing counseling and support for cancer patients and their families.]

(c) copyright 2007  The Sword of the Spirit
publishing address: Park Royal Business Centre, 9-17 Park Royal Road, Suite 108, London NW10 7LQ, United Kingdom