This year, I have begun asking the people in my life (both believers and non-believers) this simple question, “What would it look like for you to take one step toward God this year?” I began asking this question to improve my practice of personal evangelism. But as you could probably guess, many people ask the question back to me during the course of our conversation. The more I have thought about it, the clearer it has become that my personal answer is all about prayer. This year, I believe taking one step toward God looks like growing in the area of prayer.
As I have discussed this with people close to me and taken stock of my own life, my desire (and need) to grow in prayer has come into sharper focus. It is not so much about learning “how” to pray. Also, surprisingly, I don’t think it is about praying more frequently or even more effectively (though I would welcome growth in both). For me, this year, I think it comes down to what I believe about prayer.
I know from God’s Word that prayer is indispensable and powerful. I know, in a way I can’t fully grasp, that it is essential to God’s work in this world and in my own life. Yet I am aware of a gap between what I know to be true about prayer and the way I think about prayer (especially when I am praying). I know prayer is more important than my actions. But if I am honest, I usually don’t think that way while I am praying. I rush through my “asking” so I can get to my doing. I struggle to believe that my “praising” is as important to God as my preaching, planning, working and dreaming. I slip into thinking about “confessing” and “thanking” as things to check of my list rather than things that will give me life, change my heart and impact my situation. Perhaps most telling of all, I long to be closer to God and forget that prayer is a ready opportunity to draw near to Him.
So I have begun to make some changes. When I pray I am trying to slow down enough to remember what is really happening. When I am with pastors and church leaders, I am trying to admit my struggle to really believe God works through prayer and am striving to pray with fresh conviction. When I am invited into situations where I cannot see an answer and am unsure how to move forward, I am deciding to pray with renewed hope in the power of God to sustain us and work all things together for our good.
So what about you? Do you genuinely believe in asking God to work in your life and the lives of those around you? In praising Him for who He is and what He has done? In confessing your sins to Him and trusting in His powerful, soul changing grace? In thanking Him for all that He has done in us and the world around us?