|Bamboo, near Brasilia, Brazil|
Since 1981 my extended praying day has been Tuesday. On Tuesday afternoons I go alone to a quiet place, away from distractions, and talk with God about what we are thinking and doing together. Solitary praying is one-on-one, God and I, for several hours.
As I meet with God I carry certain core beliefs with me. They are:
1. God exists. God is real. There is a God. God is. Without this, praying is an illusion. In the act of praying I am keeping company with the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving, necessarily existent (everlasting; without beginning or end), personal agent who created and sustains all things. This is no small appointment I have!
2. God is a personal being. God desires relationship. The Christian idea of God as a Trinity makes sense of God as essentially relational. God, in his being, is three relating Persons in One. God, as a Three-Personed Being, makes conceptual sense of the idea that God is love. Everlastingly, the Father has been loving the Son, the Son has been loving the Spirit, the Spirit has been loving the Father, and round and round in the Big Dance. To pray is to accept God’s invitation to the Big Dance.
3. God made me. For what? For relationship with him. God desires relationship. He made me for such a partnership as this. When I pray I am living in the heart of God’s desire for me.
4. God knows me. In praying God’s Spirit searches me out. God is aware of my deepest thoughts and inclinations, many of which are beyond me. God knows me better than I know myself. This would be devastating, were it not for the fact that…
5. God loves me. God, in his essence, is love. Therefore, God cannot not-love. This is good news for me! As I put 4 and 5 together I’m singing “Amazing Grace” accompanied by tears of gratitude and joy.
6. God desires me to love and know him in return. God has called me into a reciprocal relationship. Between God and me is a give-and-take.
This is where praying comes in. To pray is to enter a loving-knowing relationship with God. When I talk with God I often begin by asking, “God, is everything all right between you and me?” This is the “Search me, O God” moment. Then, I listen. If God reveals something that’s breaking relationship with him, I confess it. It then becomes God’s delight to forgive me. God loves doing this because God is love. God desires to heal anything that breaks relationship.
In praying, I talk to God. I express my love to God. I voice concerns to him. I don’t hesitate to ask for myself if my request feels kingdom advancing. This is called “petitionary prayer.” I meet some who feel weird about asking for themselves. That feeling is not from God.
I also pray for others. This is called “intercessory prayer.” All these kind of things and more are what happen when I talk with God.
In praying I listen to God. When God speaks to me, I write it down. I keep a spiritual journal, which is a record of the voice and activity of God to me. In this way I remember the things God says to me. God’s history with me is more precious than material things and accomplishments.
I have found that God has much to say to me today. I take “This is the day the Lord has made” literally. Today is the day of encounter for me. God has plans and purposes for me, which have to do with his kingdom and his righteousness. I seek these two things in the first place. Then God will add all good things unto me.
There is no formula for this, because praying is relationship with God. Praying cannot be programmed. No two dialogues are the same. Praying is a movement, not an institution.
There is more to prayer as relationship than the things I have shared above. Yet there are essentials that apply to any strong relationship: listening, understanding and being understood and, of course, love. I have such things in mind, residually in the background of my soul, when I am praying.
- John Piippo, Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (Kindle Locations 134-171). WestBow Press. Kindle Edition.