I vividly remember a season in my life right out of college when it seemed like my world was crashing down. During that season, God was shattering all the idols and false pretenses in my life. I remember feeling desperate, broken and so confused about what possible good He was going to bring from my circumstances. During this time, God had also given me the gift of a dear mentor in my life. The one who knows first-hand some of life’s greatest heartaches – a prodigal child, an unsaved loved one, a broken marriage, chronic pain, loss upon loss – yet, boldly testifies of God’s faithfulness through it all. Yes, it was someone like this in my life who spoke a bold truth that my unripe heart needed to hear.
It quickly became my habit to call her when I felt like my extroverted self just needed to process out loud. Until one day, she gently exhorted me with a good ol’ fashioned reality check. She said,
“Dear, I’m always here to listen and love you through, but I just have to ask, are you spending more time running to the phone, than the throne?”.
My reaction was both an “Ouch!” and a long drawn out “Ohhhh”….
She was right. It had become my habit to spend more time complaining/venting/overanalyzing aloud to others than it was to lay it all before my heavenly Father. Prior to this life-altering incident, I spent very little time in the practice of prayer. Life was going seemingly well and easy. I had a false sense of control and a small view of God. Surely, I had an improper understanding of what role prayer had in the Christian’s life. Timothy Keller explains it well, “When life is going smoothly, and our truest heart treasures seem safe, it does not occur to us to pray.”
That dark season combined with a swift, but a gracious kick in the rear from my dear friend began one of the most holy, fertile seasons of growth for me. My time in communion with the Lord was precious. I longed for sneak-away moments where I could just sit and talk with my Father, and it just felt natural. I craved time in His word. It was a sacred time of learning what it meant to live out Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
I’d love to say that from that moment on my prayer life has been spot on, but I think we all know and can testify to how fickle we can be. At some point, I carelessly slipped back into an embarrassing pattern of sluggish prayers. You know the stanza in Come Thou Fount, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it Prone to leave the God I love…”? Ugh, did I ever feel this tension in my heart. Enter in our long, painful season of secondary infertility and two unexplained miscarriages, where God began to gently woo me back into sweet communion with Him. Albeit uncomfortable circumstances and ones that I kicked hard against, it was the very providence that drew me into the protection of His love through prayer.
Yet, even as I sought to pray gutsy prayers with a heart-posture of “nevertheless”, I grew weary. My prayers began to feel too heavy to lift on my own.
I was beyond thankful for a small group of people in my life who held my arms up like Moses needed and urged me to persevere (this is also why it’s important not to isolate yourself during the hard seasons!). They faithfully prayed on my behalf, and slowly I felt a shift happening in my heart. I felt free once again to pray bold prayers, not only asking God for the desires of my heart – a child, but also for peace in the face of unanswered prayers.
So what are some practical matters I’ve found helpful as I continue to grow in the discipline of prayer?
Persistence. In Colossians 4:2-4 we’re told to “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” So, we must not ever give up, even when we fall short. There are times where I feel sure God is fed-up with my inconsistencies, but then I’m reminded that our God is changeless and ever so patient with our frailties. I must persist; We must persist. Even when I feel like I’m praying the same prayers over and over, I must persist, press-on and not lose heart (Luke 18:1-8).
Watchfulness. I’ve also learned to be watchful during my time of prayer. This is probably the biggest struggle for me. I need to have an action plan to keep me from self-centered praying, wandering heart/mind/distractions, and hollow expressions.
Having a prayer Journal. Without writing my prayers down on paper, I’m inclined to all the above.
Practicing thankfulness. Lastly, I’ve learned to continue steadfastly in prayer with thanksgiving. My time in communion with God never feels complete without taking a proportionate amount of time to thank Jesus for His many good gifts to me, both big and small. A tangible way I’ve done that is simply by numbering them and listing them out in a place in the house where I have easy access to immediately document the blessings. For example, a notebook near the kitchen sink. This helps me also to look back and remember God’s past faithfulness in seasons where I am forgetful.
Again, I am no model for what perfectly effective and purposeful time in prayer looks like. However, I can tell you that as I’ve intentionally sought to spend more time in prayer with God, He has been ever so merciful to show His nearness.
This time last summer God began to affirm our decision to stop fertility treatments. It was then that he answered our desperate prayer for peace. It was an almost immediate change in my heart.
What followed, was clarity for the path ahead, which for us meant pursuing adoption. However, there was a point just before this clear answer when I wondered if/when I would ever have peace about the path. In His mercy (and with much soul-stretching wrestling for me), He has given the gift of acceptance and joy, despite hopes unfulfilled. I have even had friends say that they see a change in my countenance as if a weight has been lifted. This is not by my own strength, but because of the faithfulness of our loving God! So for those of you in the midst of heavy discouragement, keep clinging, even if it's by your pinky nail, to the HOPE found in Christ. He is always faithful to provide.
Written by Krystle Edelson, Waiting in Hope Chats online leader. Follow her as she chronicles their journey and what God is doing in her heart along the way on her blog: https://edelsons410.wixsite.com/teamtwentyone