There was a time when I prayed to a God who I thought couldn’t hear me. I had strong feelings of unworthiness and lacked the belief of the power of prayer. The Lord’s Prayer, so often quoted in churches, was intimidating. I rarely got beyond the first line, “Our Father in heaven,” without falling into a mental fog of shame and fear. I didn’t believe I could talk to the Father in Heaven, a holy God. Only Angels and really good Christians could ever approach the Father God. Nor did I understand the conversational nature of prayer, i.e. talking to God, listening and waiting for His response. When I did hear from Him it was often through my distorted filters and came out skewed and misleading. My prayers had to sound good, often were my own agenda, or they were prayers that I knew that would get approval from man. Another words I prayed more to please myself or man. I didn’t ever think that God loved me and that I could please Him.
Before Jesus’ death, my thoughts of unworthiness and outward works may have been justified. To be considered worthy required a Jewish heritage, cleansing rituals and religious sacrifices. Even then, the reality of approaching God and talking to Him was a privilege limited to just a few. No amount of cleansing or sacrifice was ever going to be enough. To experience the fullness of approaching God required Jesus Christ’s death.
Jesus lived a life on this earth where He suffered the same sort of highs and lows that we suffer. On the cross Jesus bore every atrocity that sin brought into this world, He experienced the loneliness and fear of being separated from God and won for us the victory over death and the evil one. His sacrifice meant that my feelings of unworthiness were based on unfounded truth. The need to pray such lofty sounding prayers was also based on a lie. God never wanted such pretence, He wanted me. God didn’t send His beloved son to earth to suffer and die so that I could stand at the ‘doorway of heaven’ and speak hollow words down the corridor. He wanted me to boldly approach His throne of grace and talk through my needs, fears and hopes with Him and hear from His heart. He wanted to me to seek Him for the victory that He established over the enemy. To be able to see the healing power of God’s truth come alive in me by praying for His kingdom to come and His will to be done.
Much of what I have learned about prayer I discovered through personal experience in the counselling room. I often refer to having a mental illness. It had symptoms of depression and anxiety, however, there was a lot more to the illness. In essence it was an adaptive protection that became maladaptive. As a child I developed a way of shutting down (dissociating) and putting someone else in my place. This happened so seamlessly that I hardly noticed it. I would occasionally lose time, see things in second person, have foggy periods. I had many voices in my head, as well as other symptoms such as headaches, sleeplessness, vivid nightmares, extreme behaviour changes, depression and anxiety. Because I grew up with this from a little baby I thought that this was very normal. It was only when I stopped being able to function and I saw a counsellor, that I discovered it was not. According to all of the literature that I read at diagnosis, full healing was not possible. Much of the literature stated that the object of therapy was to learn how to manage the condition.
I was a Christian, but I was a stunted, non-victorious one. I needed the victory that Jesus Christ had for me, but I didn’t know how to find it. I had a lot of religious mental knowledge, but very little experiential knowledge of the power of the cross and God’s love. In the counseling room I had to face a lot of things, many I didn’t even realise were there. In the process of facing the pain, shame, and lies, I also had to face a lot of demonic oppression. Overcoming this oppression meant allowing God to touch areas of my heart (see Discerning and Defeating the Enemy). It also required me to learn how to seek Jesus and boldly approach Him. Much to my amazement God wanted me to approach Him, not because I had become some really good Christian, but because of the power of the cross. I was His child, cleansed and made righteous by His son.
In the counselling room I learned an important lesson on prayer. Prayer is relational, not transactional. Prayer is not telling God to do our personal agenda, it is about discovering the power of God’s agenda and praying it into existence on this earth. It is seeking Jesus for the victory and establishing it in our lives and the lives of others. It is surrendering our flawed, powerless will to His perfect, power-filled will. It can be inhibited by unforgiveness and our need to control. It is about transforming fear into faith, bondage into freedom, death into life, hate into love etc. God doesn’t want us to pray out of obligation or appeasement. Prayer is based on love. God desires to talk to us and He wants us to want Him. It is a declaration of our dependence on Him and our inability to live without Him. It is pouring out our heart to a listening God. I believe prayer is what made the difference between managing my condition and my full healing. It was the relational form of prayer that transformed my life. I could go right up to the God who made the universe, created man and every living thing and talk to Him. I could talk to Him about my pain and He could reveal its source and heal it. I could speak the words He told me to speak and demons diminished to nothing. In times conversing with God I received life-changing revelation of God’s love, and the power and authority of being His child. I witnessed the power of forgiveness in opening up areas of my life held captive to darkness. I saw the impact of surrendering my control. I watched the impact of praying God’s will and truth on my life and the life of others.
Prayer for me is no-longer a one way conversation to an austere, distant God. While I still talk to him about my needs, wants and desires, that is not the only conversation I have with Him. It is now something rich and beautiful. At times it is easy, other times I spend many days seeking God, allowing Him to remove any spiritual, emotional or physical barriers. Sometimes I have deep emotional times where I grapple with and speak out my pain-filled reality; often resulting in moments of surrender. Prayer for me involves thanksgiving and praise, visions and dreams, speaking to God for myself or another. It always involves listening. Often involves persisting and waiting in faith. It includes discerning the enemy, letting Jesus into the darkness and establishing the restoration of God’s truth and healing. Prayer is extremely intimate and a very powerful weapon in destroying the strongholds of the enemy. I can pray with others or alone. In established times, or all day long. Prayer is a two way conversation between a loving, all-powerful God and His precious child.
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