Relearning How To Pray


There is one phrase that bubbles out of me, from the core of me, constantly.  It expresses my whole heart, the paradigm in which I think and make decisions, the thing that motivates me beyond energy or skill.  If I have a personal motto, a vision statement, it is this:  that the full work of Jesus be done in me, that the full process be permitted—In me, and in you.

This single thought permeates every single corner of me.  If you want to know how Diane will respond to something, that is your answer.  If you want to know if she can handle something, that is your answer.  If you want to know if her heart is open to you, that is your answer.  I’m not always quick about it, and I don’t always get it right, but it is the bottom line of my life.

This means I have had to learn to lay myself down.  A lot.  It means having to constantly die to the idea that His ways are greater.  For a season, it feels there is more death than living.  It means that every single characteristic, every pet peeve, all my reputation, all my pride, all my value, how I think—in short, everything—is now or has been under significant renovation.  It means the way I think has been completely remodeled.  This includes how I pray.

In years past, I was a champion prayer.  I was animated and specific and bold, even at one point reminding God every day for three months that I was agreeing with him for a brand new black Nissan Maxima.  I made lists and charted the answers.  I knew what I wanted, what would make me feel successful or cared for, what I needed, and I prayed for it.

But then, I stopped praying for somethings.  My goal changed into becoming someOne.  But I realized recently that I don’t really talk to Him much at all these days.  This became a burr in my heart.

It certainly isn’t that I don’t hear Him in my spirit, or that I don’t spend time with Him, or that I’ve run out of needs (hah!).  But from my very core, I wanted His full work to be done in me and believed He was working that out.  I was convinced I could say nothing, ask for nothing, that would be useful in comparison to His great wisdom.  I realize now this is another area in me rooted in the idea that He is in control.  I did not mention anything to Him, convinced my best course was already on cruise control in Him.

So when it came to my life, to the areas in life that had need, I was silent.  He knows what I need, I remembered.  In times past, all these open needs were useful to me, a time of struggle that brought me tremendous maturity.  Now I had over-corrected: I had clamped my mouth shut so that foolish or immature prayers would not gush out of me as my flesh burned away—and inadvertently, I refused to partner with Him, refused to express myself, what I saw, what I wanted to bring about.  In fact, I said nothing at all, so that I would not ask Him for the specific, convenient short-sighted answers I thought I wanted.  In relationships, in sickness, in finances, in all of it—I made friends with the fire and clenched my jaw shut as tears ran down my face.  I believed He was loving me, honoring me.  And He was, but now I see I am merely scratching the surface of truly walking in Him, truly taking up my crown.

Our little family has been in a struggle for a few months and in the last few weeks, I have had an increasing sense of helplessness and even hopelessness.  As one who so values forward progress, limbo is significantly difficult.  I assumed again that my Father pruning me and again, I opened my arms so His shears could do as they wished.  I assumed the delay was simply more struggle—my familiar, sharp friend.

Jesus is always right there with me, and I knew I could open up a dialogue with Him about it.  But it was as though I was a newborn believer: I had an odd case of stage freight and I didn’t know what to say.  Everything I once knew about praying, all my specific preferences and ideas, did not merge into my spirit, who sees itself as son, instead of a slave who must beg.  I want the full work of Jesus—I have the faith to lean my entire self on His chesed for me—or at least, I want to.  I fully believe He is unable to fail me, that He is wholly loyal and faithful.  To pray for a specific answer seemed to contradict my end goal, and I didn’t want to risk asking the wrong thing, as I have seen Him do crazy things.  I want the full work, not the normal way, not the way its always been.

This was a very real struggle in me, and I loitered there for several days.  Until, at a random point in the middle of my day yesterday, it came clearly into my spirit: But you do know.  You do know what to say.  I knew He was prompting me, waking me up.  It was time to talk.  He said I knew what to say.

And I did, clearly, as though He gave me a nudge by depositing words in my heart.  They sounded like me–and Him–simultaneously.  Suddenly, the fog about this idea of partnering with Jesus, this haze of confusion over my conversations with Him lifted and it was crystal clear.  I fell asleep last night talking to Him, uttering two phrases over and over because they rang so clearly to me as one with authority because of Jesus that I knew they were just right.  I knew I was linking our hearts on a common mission.  As for the repetition, I think that was just because I was so grateful to finally understand what I could do!

He is such a good teacher.

This morning, I got a phone call.  The details aren’t important, and the limbo hasn’t been lifted.  And that’s OK, because I’m not looking for the short path…remember, I want the full work.  But the conversation I had on that call directly linked to how I was talking to Him last night as I fell asleep, and I know know know that Jesus used that to encourage me to keep going, as a parent might coax a young child with an attaboy!.  It wasn’t obscure or complex—it was clear and pure, a hug from the One who knows me.

I’m not afraid to be a child with Jesus.  He told me to come that way.  But I will not confuse childlike faith with childish demands.  I will not whine or beg.  His heartbeat has settled deep within me and so few words are actually needed in this place (ironic, as my writings are long.)  There is fire and pain and pressure here, but every place that He finishes is diamonds and gold.  They are places of tremendous wealth and energy for His people.  I have much more compassion and patience than I once did, because of Him.

Jesus hugged me today, and validated me in a way that I really longed for.  I wanted to encourage you, too, not to rush it, or beg your way out of it.  Let the full work be done.  Go the whole way.  Don’t shave off a single second.  He is our love song, our prize, but not in a cliche way that makes good song lyrics.  In a real way, that captures all the issues of this day, of your life, and uses them to fertilize you.  He is faithful, and He will finish.  And you will too, as you persevere.  Express yourself to Him, listen to Him, partner with Him.  You are a son.  Your days as a passenger, as a slave, are over.


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