590:  How to Experience God When You Pray

590: How to Experience God When You Pray

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The Joy of Prayer

What if your times of prayer could become so much more than reciting words or listing random requests?  What if your prayers could transport you into a holy place to experience God’s presence in a very real and tangible way?  What if you began having personal, life-changing encounters with the Creator of the universe every time you prayed?  And what if you had the confidence to know, to truly know— that God hears your prayers and delights in answering them?  How would this change your prayer life?

All of this is not only possible, but readily available and expected every time we pray.  The problem for most, however, is that we either devalue what prayer truly is or do not fully understand who we are praying to.  And if we did, how the floodgates of heaven would open and pour on us an experience with God that would rock our world and change us forever.

Let’s explore prayer a little deeper.


What is Prayer?— In Just a Few Words

Simply put, prayer is talking with God.  Or, as the theologians would say, “Prayer is personal communication with God.”¹  Ok, got that. But what does “communication with God” really mean?  In essence, “communication” is the exchange of information between two entities or individuals, both the giving and receiving of the same.  And “with God” means He, the Sovereign Creator of All, the One that transcends all human thought, the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Immutable One, is on the other end of our two-way conversation.

Let that sink in for a moment.

When we pray, and as often as we pray, we are in the process of not only talking with God but having Him also talk with us.  Prayer, just like all communication between two individuals, is not saying what you want to say and then hanging up the phone.  It was never intended to be a monologue.  No, prayer is a two-way conversation, both giving and receiving, between you (ultimately dust and ashes) and God (revealed in resplendent glory), whereby information (praise, requests, supplication, petitions— and His answers, instructions, commands, and encouragement ) are mutually shared.  And the highest glory you can ever experience is to have the only Person worthy of praise actually speak to you personally, in direct conversation.  It is a life-altering and faith-building encounter that will change everything about you in an instant.

And this is available to each of us whenever we pray.  But we have to pray, and we have to understand exactly who we are in conversation with in order to have confidence when we pray.

Let me explain.


Sovereign, Ruler, King… and Father

In the Old Testament, God was often presented as unapproachable.  He only met with His people once a year, nestled between the outstretched wings of the Cherubim above the Bema seat of the Ark of the Covenant, hidden behind a thick veil.  Or when He revealed Himself to the masses, it was usually with fire and smoke and lightning, like on Mt. Sinai, which only reinforced His unapproachableness (Ex. 19).  And when Moses asked to see His glory and His face, God said, “No.”  His actual words were, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Ex. 33:20).  And regarding seeing His glory, God also said, “No.”  But He did allow Moses to look at His receding glory as He passed by (Ex. 33:23).  Something like, “Not My face, Moses, but you can see My back as I walk away.”

So much for an intimate relationship with our Creator.

But in the New Testament (and hints in the Old), Jesus reveals another aspect of God’s nature and His relationship with us.  He is not a despot— a frightening, powerful King ready to abuse and punish His lowly servants for any slight infraction.  No, God is our Father, with all the implications that word conveys about our relationship with Him.  Jesus showed us, by His example, what it was like to live on earth with the confidence of knowing God is our Father and that we can come to Him with anything, at any time, and have His complete attention.  And Jesus teaches us how to pray in His Sermon on the Mount with these words, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matt. 6:9).   You see, it’s all about a family relationship.

God is our Father.  Maybe not like the flawed and imperfect father you may have had growing up.  But He is our Father, the perfect Father, who loves His children beyond description and only wants the best for them.  Remember, as much as you love your children and, if necessary, would gladly sacrifice your life for them— God loves you, His children, even more.  And He has already sacrificed the life of His Son because of His love for you.  That fact alone, if you have ears to hear, should take your breath away and fill you with joy.


He is Father… but Also Sovereign, Ruler, and King

Yes, God is love, and He loves us as His children (1 John 4:8).   But when we pray, we also must realize that God is all-powerful (without limit) and all-knowing (without limit) and always present (without limit) and never changes (no matter what).  There is nothing higher than our Father.  There is no court of appeals that can overturn His ruling, no other official He has to get permission from before speaking, and no one to whom He is accountable.  And there is nothing greater than our God— nothing (Isa. 40:25).  This means that when you pray to your Father, when you speak with Him about whatever is on your heart, there is no one greater than the One listening to your prayers.  No one, ever— nor will there ever be.

After all, He “spoke” the universe into existence (Gen. 1).  What do you think He can do for our simple requests?

But it gets better.

God, our Father, is the only One who can answer our prayers.  He alone has the power and wisdom and sovereignty to do what no one else can do.  So when we approach Him as His children, dearly loved by our Father, we have access to the only One who can grant our requests, take away our pain, heal our loved ones, restore a broken relationship, redeem a wayward child, heal a broken body or a crushed heart, or tell us what to do when the way forward seems dark and foreboding.

Our Father is the King of the Universe.  And (as our Father) He grants us bold access to (as Sovereign King) His throne of grace (Heb. 4:16), so we can experience the supernatural peace of knowing, in our present, uncertain situation, no matter how dark or hopeless it may seem, our Father is in control.  As Paul said to the church at Philippi:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:6-7.

Or, as Coach Grant Taylor asked his players after winning the State Championship in Facing the Giants, “You tell me what’s impossible with God?”  And they answered, “Nothing, coach.” That’s right, nothing is impossible with God (Matt. 19:26), and this is where our peace is found.

As our Father, we have direct access to Him and His complete attention.  And as Sovereign Lord and King, our Father is the only One who has the power to answer our prayers.  So rest in this truth, and put it into practice when you approach Him in prayer.

And once you tell Him what is on your heart or make a request of your loving Father, the King— leave it there.  He is quite capable of dealing with your problems and concerns.


But There is More

We have much more to say about prayer and how to experience God when we pray.  In future posts, we will talk about how to approach Him in prayer, how to prepare our hearts before we pray, how to pray with confidence and expectation, how to pray according to His will and in His name, how to cultivate a two-way relationship with Him that brings boldness and indescribable joy when we pray, how to stay connected to Him in prayer even amidst the chaos and noise that surrounds us, how to pray in childlike simplicity and faith, and so much more.

But for today, focus on your relationship with Him as His child (which makes Him approachable) and on His power and sovereignty in everything (which means He can do anything at any time, so why worry when we leave our troubles with Him), and rest on these two facts alone.

Pray with confidence, pray with expectation, pray with thankfulness, pray continuously, and then share with others what He has shown you in your conversations with Him.

And remember, the best is yet to come.


Notes

1. Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 376).  Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.



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