What are your temptations when it comes to prayer? Here are mine:
- I'm tempted to treat prayer as a time to work myself into a state of trust and joy, instead of asking God
- I'm tempted to be lazy about the bread-and-butter of prayer: intercession for my family, community and world
- I'm tempted to pour my heart out to others and not to God
- I'm tempted to get it all together before I pray
One thing I'm learning is to come to God as I am. Not to put it off until I haven't been quite so sinful. Not to avoid God because I've been avoiding him recently and I feel guilty. Not to wait until my thoughts and emotions are together enough to frame a clear request. To come to God confused, unhappy, doubting or angry. To come to God with the guilt and the mistakes and the pain and the questions. To come to God because of his grace, not my goodness. To come to God messy.
Until I do this, I deprive myself of a great weapon in the fight for joy. Joy becomes something I achieve (or don't achieve!) through my Bible reading, my sought-out encouragement, my biblical counselling techniques. Joy shifts sideways into smaller goals: a happy family, an organised life, a friendship. Joy turns into something I try to feel before I pray. Instead of going to God, crying out my emptiness to him, and seeking his fullness, I fill myself with the fruit of my own efforts.
Which is pretty stupid. Try as I might, I can't fill myself with joy. I can't make myself desire God: only God can do that.
How then do we fight for joy when our desires languish... ? ... The key to joy in God is God's omnipotent, transforming grace ... [T]he great purpose of prayer is to ask that - in and through all his gifts - God would be our joy. (p.138)
So how do we pray? What will keep us real and keep us praying? ...
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