You know what it's like to meet someone new and take those baby steps to get to know them? With the people you are closest to, it’s so fun to look back on what it was like to meet them and gradually warm up to them. We start out really closed off, proper and polite. We put our best foot forward and don’t really let them in to our deepest levels (or our craziness!). I suspect they do that, too.
Getting to know someone takes time, on both parts. It takes repeated interaction and gradually growing comfortable enough with them to let down your guard and be yourself. I think prayer is a lot like this with the Lord. It is developing that relationship with God where just get comfortable with Him. Comfortable saying anything to Him, learning who He is, and letting Him in to whom we really are.
This could be what I love most about having a prayer life - all the knowing and nearness that happens between God and us.
When our prayer life shifts from lists of need to relationship building, and when you draw near to God, you realize that He knows you.
Think about that. He knows you. The God of the universe knows you intimately.
He knew you before you were born, while you were being created in the womb.
He knows your purpose and the great things He has planned for you to do.
He knows when you get up in the morning and what you do each day.
He knows what you need even before you ask.
Psalm 139:1-18 describes so beautifully how much God knows each of us:
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
, you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, am still with you.
When we talk to God, we realize these things all the more. We realize how close He is to all the details of our lives, and how precious and miraculous this really is. It’s so miraculous, Matthew 6:8 even tells us that He knows exactly what we need even before we ask. That tells me that our prayer life isn’t just about making God aware of our needs. I do love that I can pour out my requests to Him and wait expectantly, but it's so comforting to know that He already knows…because He knows me. He knows my situation, my life, my kids, my church, and my needs. He just knows it all.
Prayer brings us so near to God, that this kind of intimate knowing is two-sided. The other side of the nearness that prayer brings is that we get to know Him.
We get to know Him.
As we talk to Him and develop that personal relationship with Him, we begin to recognize His voice. We hear His promptings throughout our day that lead us. We recognize that still small voice of comfort and help. We learn to hear his voice.
Again, it’s like when you are developing that new friendship. You aren’t quite sure if they like the same things as you, or what their habits are. Do they drink coffee in the morning? Do they like to go on walks? Does this person get your humor? What is their favorite lunch place? Are they going to be offended with your opinions? It takes time spent with a person to learn these things about them. It takes many conversations to “get” their humor and figure out if they get yours.
Likewise, it takes many conversations to get to know God’s voice and learn His ways. Those conversations are personal and intimate. And in those prayer moments, you develop the relationship that enables you to hear Him when He whispers to you.
Many people neglect this part of the relationship with God and it becomes very one-sided. He knows us and we talk to Him, but the habit forms that we pour out all our stuff on Him and then jet. We pray, lay it all out there for Him to fix, and run out the door to do all of our “things.” I have found it to be so hard to take that time to wait. To pray, tell God my heart and my needs and then just sit and wait.
And invite Him to speak.
When I do wait and listen, the silence is hard. My mind begins to wander, and I begin to ask God more requests sometimes, and then I have to decide to listen. When we take just a few extra minutes to ask, “God, what do you want to speak to me about this?”, we are making ourselves available to listen when He speaks. It’s a learned process. We have to make the effort to listen, and remind ourselves to slow down just a little bit longer and pay attention to what He wants to say to us.
I have also found that this doesn’t get easier. There’s always a pull to read my Bible, pray and then run out the door. There’s always something to make me want to cut my time short with Him. But just taking those few extra minutes to listen and hear Him makes all the difference in the world. And the funny thing is, I am wanting Him to speak words that change everything. I want Him to say things like, “You know, Casey, that person that doesn’t like your husband will miraculously begin to align with him today,” or “That staff member your church needs will walk into your building today and all the funds needed will come with them,” or “What you want to see in your child will all come fruition today, or “You are going to see all your prayers answered today.”
When I listen, what I do always find is a perspective shift that changes everything IN ME.
Honestly, I never hear those immediate fixes that change everything around me. When I listen, what I do always find is a perspective shift that changes everything IN ME. I am reminded that I am operating in the natural and in my own strength and He shows me, yet again, how much higher His thoughts and ways are than mine. He shows me the bigger picture again. He shows me what He is doing in me and whispers peace because He is in control even if it doesn’t look like it. He reminds me to be Kingdom-minded, and not self-focused. I am able to find His joy that is my strength. The listening brings life and peace and takes me back to Romans 8:6, “The mind controlled by the Spirit brings life and peace.”
The listening component in prayer doesn’t change everything, but it changes me. And in the process I can hear God! How amazing is that?! I can know God intimately and hear His voice speak directly to my heart about my life and those around me. It reminds me how much He really does know me, and reveals to me that I also know Him as my Father, that friend that sticks close, and as my refuge and strength.
Read next: WEEK FOUR
Join us each Monday in August for our series on prayer. Post your thoughts and prayer needs below each post, letting us know you're joining the series. Your name will be entered to win Debbie Morris' amazing book, The Blessed Woman.
Casey Graves is a wife, momma to two girls, and co-pastor/planter of Foundations Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She enjoys a good cup of coffee with a friend or a family date day when she finds some spare time. Casey recently published her first book, Perfectly Weak, now available at Amazon, and blogs at We Are Perfectly Weak.