Jesus Time Part 2: Prayer

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I love words.

I love reading words. I love writing words. And I love sharing (or speaking) words.

My mom loved to journal, and she owned a bookstore, so I mostly blame her. As a child I started writing stories and compelling my audience with moving speeches. My summer vacations were spent consuming whatever titles she put in front of my face; I could never get enough. And while I didn’t study literature in college, get a journalism degree, or a masters in fine arts, there has always been something beautiful about the written language that causes my heart to beat a little faster.
It’s no surprise then that I have a deep affection for the Bible— the inspired and written WORD of God. I love that He used words to form the earth—words caused light to come from darkness, stars to be cast into their places, oceans to be dug out, and breath to enter the lungs of man. Language is the first thing God created (and with it everything else), and perhaps that’s why I have such a reverence for Scripture, and such hunger to know it well.

Last week I shared some practical tips for those with questions about bible study, or who have never really dug into the Bible for themselves. If you missed that, you can catch it here in Part One of “Jesus Time.”
“Jesus Time” is a term that my husband shared with me, and I adopted many years ago, to label those moments we intentionally set aside to connect with Jesus. I know, that can sound a little weird if you are unfamiliar with the idea that being a follower of Jesus is about a relationship, not church attendance, religious duty, or being a “good” person (who is?!) That is what I believe, and why I make time to connect with God. It’s just as normal as meeting a friend for coffee, or scheduling a meeting with a client.
While there are several facets to growing my faith, (giving, worship, hospitality, sabbath, caring for others, serving others), at the center are two practices— two things that make up the bulk of my “Jesus Time.” The first is spending time in the Bible (the words that He inspired men to write and then left for us), and the second practice is prayer.

If you pop into your local Christian bookstore or do a quick Amazon search, you will undoubtedly find a vast assortment of books on the topic of prayer. Whether you’re a wife, mother, step-mom, college student, empty-nester, pastor, business owner, stay-at-home-homeschooling-mom, or none of that, chances are you can find a book that focuses on your life stage, specific questions, or basic plan for “how to have a successful prayer life.” Sadly, even with so many resources, there are still many who are perplexed over this idea of “talking to God” and feel inadequate when pressed to do it in public.
Prayer is simply a conversation between friends. Unfortunately, it often becomes the last resort when someone is sick, or when the bank account is low, but prayer is much more than that. It’s more than a list of requests or demands. Praying is choosing to talk to God, just as you would anyone else, but before you jump on the anxiety wheel about “how to do it right,” I’d like to share three quick things with you:

1. You can’t get it wrong. The Bible says that He knows our every thought. So no matter how your prayers sound, God knows where they come from. Try talking to Him as you would your closest friend— the one who knows all about the skeletons in your closet and loves you anyway. Start by telling Him what’s going on in your life: your worries and fears, your frustrations with the boss or your spouse, the feelings you have about motherhood, your career, or the person at church who “rubs you the wrong way.” Many people write their prayers out, as opposed to speaking to the air, or they designate a specific place as their place to “talk” to God. One friend of mine would get coffee, and then “go for a drive with Jesus” every morning. There is no formula, no “right way” to do it.

2. Prayer is a conversation. Go ahead and talk, but then wait for a response. Pause, just like you would if you were dialoguing with a friend. Expect that He’ll answer you. It might not be as you anticipate, but He’s always speaking to us— we just have to fine-tune our hearing. Seldom is it an audible voice. Often, I read a line from the Bible that is exactly what I need to hear about the situation I am facing. It might be a verse I’ve read 100 times, and yet on that day, it’s as if it jumped off the page and smacked me in the face. My heart starts beating like it’s going to explode, or I feel a rush of emotion and tears welling up— that is when I know that God is speaking to me. And the more we practice it, the more aware we become of His voice. Other ways God responds to me are through the words of a friend, or the lyrics of a song, a phone conversation, an excerpt from a book, or the echo that plays whenever I am disciplining my children.

3. Make it a habit. Some people struggle with “spending time” in prayer— so rather than cramming it into a ten-minute window at the beginning of the day, try spacing it out. The Bible talks about “praying without ceasing” and what that implies is that the communication should be a constant flow— not an on/off situation. Don’t limit your conversations with God to one time of day, or one posture. Sometimes I write out my prayers in a journal, other times I pray out loud (when I’m alone in my car). When I sit at my piano, I sing my prayers. Honestly, I do my best praying when I’m also doing things like running on the treadmill, driving long distances, on an airplane, hiking, washing dishes, or in the shower.
Prayer is not a specific language, time, or method— it is a conversation between friends.  It should feel confident, and not rushed. It isn’t about the time that elapses, but the person we connect with. It isn’t a formula, the right mix of the right types of prayers as explained by acrostic and acronyms.
Prayer and Bible study have nothing to do with ticking off a box on a checklist, or being a “better” Christian (you either are or you aren’t a Christian— there is no graded system). Connection with Jesus is the only goal. It’s the coffee shop hang with a best friend. It’s the happy hour that lasts into the night because the conversation and company are rich and satisfying. “Jesus time” has little to do with what we get out of it, and everything to do who we get to be with. It is not a duty, but a way of life.