“To be honest, most of my prayers are a monologue. I tell God what’s on my mind, and then my prayer time is done. The communication flows one direction. And most of the time I don’t even verbalize my prayers. I simply offer words in my head.” – Rodney Reeves, in Christianity Today, June 11, 2015
“And it came to pass, as He [Jesus] was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of his disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” – Luke 11:1
Many believers go through most of their days without sensing the presence of their God. They do not hear Him speaking or sense His movement in their circumstances. Why is that? Perhaps because most have never been trained to cultivate a sense of the presence of their God in their daily existence.
Discipleship is not a process of cognitive learning. It cannot happen in classes, courses, sermons or media broadcasts. Discipleship requires a master and a disciple. It is a process of life being imparted to life, in person through intimate contact and interactions. This means that sensing the presence of God life is a key factor in being discipled by directly Him. Other persons may be used in the discipleship process, but those human relationships will only be as effective as the direct conversational communion one has with the Holy Spirit.
The Kingdom is defined by the two-way, interactive, intimate relationship of its citizens with its King. The discipleship relationship. Being a disciple includes a great commandment love for our God, oneness and communion with Him, life lived not out of our own will and energy but out of the indwelling and enlivening Holy Spirit of God, love for and deep fellowship with other citizen-disciples, etc. These features all point to an intimacy that must be expressed deeply and often, and in both directions in the relationship. Intimacy, oneness, and communion between the citizen and the King are the primary expression of the Kingdom relationship.
One of the keys to the Kingdom, to this citizen-disciple relationship with our God, will be repentance. Both Jesus and John proclaimed the advent of the Kingdom of God with the initial call to repent. That repentance implies a change of thinking. If we are to be citizen-disciples in the Kingdom will need to think not with our mind and thoughts, but with the mind and thoughts of Christ. We need to repent by rethinking our opinions of and relationships with the world.
How will our thinking need to be different if is to fit into the Kingdom of God? One area will be thinking differently about prayer as our way of talking to our God. Instead of the customary practice of speaking “to” our God primarily through a list of requests, we need to think of expressing an intimate companionship with dearly loved friend. Prayer, viewed through the lens of intimacy and companionship, becomes part of an ongoing two-way conversation. Making requests to our God will fit into a larger pattern of expressions of give and take, of love and commitment, of deep listening and heart-level honesty. Prayer, the making or requests and declaring God’s worth and our praise, becomes more focused on God Himself, and less focused on the self and selfish perspectives of need.
This can be encouraged in us by balancing prayer to include equal amounts of worship and praise, love and devotion, thanksgiving, heart-sharing, and confession. This more balanced praying can be folded into our ongoing communion and conversation with God.
Really, how many of us find a conversation with a person refreshing or life-giving if that person only speaks selfishly of his or her opinion of what he or she wants or needs from you? Yet for a great many believers, this self-focused and opinionated recitation of need largely defines all verbal communication with God. Conversational communion with our God includes speaking of the love for Him, sharing of hurts and pain (perhaps without seeking a solution), asking for advice or ideas, and commentary on life that invites a response.
We are not accustomed to speaking to our God this way. To help in starting a lifestyle of conversational prayer, you can add a few disciplines to your praying. Spend more time praying, but make it balanced with worship and praise, love and devotion, thanksgiving and confession, heart-sharing and conversation. Replace thinking of prayer as something you “do,” your primary means of speaking to your God. Think of it as conversation with a dear friend and constant companion that is ongoing through the day. Speak with God without asking for anything. Ask for less overall, but ask for more reminders of His presence and your union with Him. When you get them, respond in conversation with Him.
“To have God speak to the heart is a majestic experience, an experience that people may miss if they monopolize the conversation and never pause to hear God’s responses.” – Charles Stanley
“God waits for you to communicate with Him. You have instant, direct access to God. God loves mankind so much, and in a very special sense His children, that He has made Himself available to you at all times.” – Wesley Duewell
The next Keys to the Kingdom post will explore a companion topic to this post, developing solitude and white space for Kingdom living.