I think my thoughts on prayer keep changing as I learn about His grace and love. I have lived so legalistically in the past that my prayer times were mostly work - my work, my effort, my trying to get "right" with God (for I always felt pretty sinful and guilty), my trying to get close to Him. I would make commitments (always quickly broken) to pray for 30 minutes or to keep a list of prayer requests or etc. These aren't bad things at all, but I made them into a law and felt I "must" do them. I think Steve McVey talks about this idea: he says that we wouldn't ever imagine saying to our spouse that we've committed to talk to them 30 minutes a day (as if that's all they get!)...it sounds like we're having to force ourselves to talk to the person! Yet that was how I treated my prayer time with God.
So how do I see prayer differently now?
Well, under law, prayer was a burden that I must do to feel like a good Christian. Under grace, it's something I am completely free to do (or not do), and truly something I find I want and am drawn to.
Under law, prayer was a work I did. Under grace, prayer is the gift of communion with Him.
Under law, I felt condemned and unable to approach God until I somehow "got right" with God again by confessing, begging for forgiveness, and "really" rededicating myself to God "this time." Under grace, God shows me I can hop in Daddy's lap and talk to Him anytime, because I am completely right and acceptable in His sight 24/7 through the finished work of Christ!
Under law, it was up to me to somehow get God to answer my prayers. Under grace, it is the Spirit of God who inspires my prayers, prays through me, and answers as I watch!
Under law, intercession was a bit of a chore, just reading through a list of names. Under grace, intercession is flowing with the Spirit as He reveals who and what to pray for and makes me know He's at work - it's like He's inviting me along as He works in people's lives.
Under law, prayer could make me tired, especially if I didn't get the good feeling I'd hoped to get after all that praying. Under grace, prayer is rejuvenating.
Under law, I felt ashamed of my sin, distant from God and thus hesitant to pray. Under grace, His total acceptance lets gives me confidence to be open with Him about my struggles and be able to see how He will act to bring His victory to light in those areas.
Under law, my worries and fears made me run from Him and feel ashamed for having such thoughts. Under grace, His love and acceptance draw me to bring my worries and fears to Him for Him to lift off as He reminds me of His truth.
Under law, prayer was mostly trying to get back on God's good side. Under grace, prayer is relaxing in the arms of the God who has no bad side - I am always on His good side, and that's a safe place to be. It's a safe place to open up, be real, talk about what's bothering me, share my feelings and hurts and even cry a little (or a lot), rant and rave, and know that He will always accept and help me.
Under law, prayer felt like trying to get close to a cold, hard Deity. Under grace, prayer feels like talking to my Best Friend or the Best Father in the World. The Spirit within me, as the administrator of the new covenant, is the Spirit of prayer who cries out "Abba, Father" from within me, impressing upon me the intimate, secure relationship I have with God.
I guess that sums it up! Grace means we're in His favor, and because of His grace it's safe to open up and share with Him, safe to talk to Him about anything, safe to ask Him for whatever is on your heart and know that He will answer out of all His goodness.
I'm still learning a lot about prayer and God is still removing a lot of the legalistic ideas I've had about it.
But I am so glad to be able to talk to Him, my dearest Friend, and know that He will never turn me away, be disappointed in me, or refuse to fellowship with me. We can be completely honest with Him and still know that we are still loved, accepted, and kept by Him! It boggles my mind to realize that we were created for this fellowship and communion with Him, that He actually loves that interaction with us! That He delights in our company!
Thank You, Lord, for being our Best Friend...
With love to all from