One of my concerns and passions in recent years is helping believers understand what prayer is and isn’t, why we need to pray, and how to pray in a way that allows us to genuinely communicate with our Creator. Part of the reason we wrestle with prayer is that we keep trying to dial in a system or formula when it is actually a relationship and conversation.
Cindy’s Thoughts On Letting The Lord Guide You To Sincere Prayer
“When I pick up a book like Handbook To Prayer and begin to check the boxes of the A-C-T-S prayer, I know I need to put it down. The minute prayer becomes rote; it’s no longer serving me well spiritually. I will wait a few days and pick it back up after my time in the Word. It can be a helpful jumping-off point when I don’t know what to say.
Every Morning though, I say the Lord’s prayer before getting out of bed. It’s not usually the way you would recite it in church, but I acknowledge first that God is my Father in Heaven. He is the Holy One and the Creator of all. I use this loosely as another “prayer formula,” but my goal is to simply communicate with God.
I’ve started to pray not simply for the forgiveness of sins but for the Holy Spirit to make me aware of my sin as soon as it happens. The majority of my sin is between my ears. The conviction is evident when I can recognize that I said something that dishonors God or was critical of another person. It’s a wonderful thing for the Holy Spirit to point our sins out to us because it is a good check that He’s listening.”
What Lives At The Top Of Cindy’s Prayer List?
“I pray for our children and grandchildren that they will come to Christ early and live lives that are bold with their faith in Christ. I pray that our daughters will have good marriages that always pursue God. I pray for our two other children and the struggles they are facing. I pray for friends that are hurting. I pray for any requests we get in the church prayer chain email. I ask God specifically to bring these people to mind throughout the day, so I can remember to pray for them.”
What Do You Do With “Unanswered Prayer”?
We often hear a similar story of a young person whose parent was sick, they prayed for healing, and their parent still died. They struggle with the result that A plus B did not equal C. To these people, prayer seems like it should be a magic wand. They think that if they pray, God will give them the answer they want, which highlights just how limited our human understanding is.
The truth is, there is no unanswered prayer. God is not answering the way we want him to answer, but he is still answering. You may pray for something, and when you don’t receive the answer you want, you assume God didn’t answer. We must be careful to avoid the thought that God doesn’t hear us or love us because that is simply a lie from the enemy.
We always have to remember that God sees the top of the tapestry, and we see the bottom; we can’t figure out how it fits together. Cindy says, “I can’t wait to get to heaven. I don’t think I’ll ask Jesus, ‘Why did this happen?’ I think I’ll know and it’ll all make sense.”
Cindy shares a time when God’s answer was clear, “When I was struggling with infertility and prayed and prayed and prayed that I would get pregnant, but in God’s grace, we can look back and know we wouldn’t have adopted three kids, had I gotten pregnant. I’ve told people before that even though we have some pretty big struggles with at least one of our children; I wouldn’t trade those kids for anything. Sometimes we’re privileged in seeing why God withholds or answers in a different way, and sometimes we’re not.”
What Is Your Purpose In Prayer?
Faith is declaring our trust in God even when we don’t see Him working the way we want to. You need to evaluate what your purpose for prayer is. Is it to ask God for something and get it? Or is it to know the heart of your Father? Cindy loves Psalm 27:4-8. To her, it represents what prayer truly is: seeking God’s face and knowing Him.
Most people misunderstand prayer as simply asking for things. Unbelievers have a safe zone of prayer that looks very similar to what most believers see prayer as. It rarely gets down to ‘Lord, help me to know you, help me to be content with who You are, help me to worship You no matter my circumstance.’
In the Psalms, we see David asking for something, often not getting the answer and ending up in praise or contentment or saying, “Lord, regardless of this, I’m gonna trust you.” It’s about allowing God to be God and realizing we’re not, and being okay with that. One thing we miss is when we try to separate prayer from reading and knowing God’s word.
God’s Prompt To Prayer: His Word.
Cindy says, “As I’m reading in the morning, I will talk to God and say, ‘Thank you for that; wow, You’re amazing.’ It will bring something to mind that I need to pray about. And to me, that’s the most natural prayer because I’m not looking at a book or a list of something. I’m just having a conversation. I’m talking to God, and he’s speaking to me through His word.”
How Do You Differentiate Between A Lament, A Praise, A Petition, and A Confession?
When reading scripture, it is all thrown out there at the same time; it’s not as set apart as an outlined prayer structure. You can go from praising to seeing something in scripture and being convicted. There will be times when you say, “Ok, Lord, You just smacked me in the face.” At that moment, you know you need to stop and spend time with God in your conviction
The Fellowship Of Suffering
The way to look at this in our smaller experience is that God uses suffering to push us toward him without those pressure points. He knows the pressure points in our lives, and without that push, we can’t see his face as clearly. When we cry out to God in pain or see someone we love in pain, our prayer life soars.
It’s like going to dinner with someone, you can have a surface-level conversation or get deep in the weeds and talk about what matters. That’s how it needs to be with God. Sometimes we stay on the surface, and sometimes we get down in the weeds.
From a sovereign providential standpoint, God allows suffering so that we are drawn to Him. In our western view of bigger, better, newer, and more, we discount the truth that God will take us through things. It is the consequence of sin. We are faced with these things because He is transforming us.
We can always go back to “Okay, Lord, I’m guilty. I’m a sinner. I deserve hell. There’s no trying to worm my way out of this.” The goal is not to get through things as fast as possible but to be content with God. God is sovereign; He loves us and cares about us, even when we don’t understand. In this way, we are drawing closer to Him.
The Problem With Retreating To Prayer V. Praying To Be Like Christ
The primary MO of those who see prayer as a retreat is thinking prayer means God will make it go away. It’s not wrong to pray for help and healing, but there is so much more we’re missing. Where is the prayer that we aren’t judgemental or critical? Where is the prayer that he changes our conscience so that we don’t dwell on money, sex, and power and instead dwell on beauty and love and serving Christ and seeing other people as lost and hurting?
God Is Working In You And Using Your Circumstance For Good.
When you’re spending time in God’s word and with Him in prayer, you’re surprised by how you react if somebody upsets you. You’re able to react with grace and kindness instead of a visceral attitude. It’s not something we praise ourselves for; it’s a time to thank the Lord for changing us.
Years ago, I wrote a prayer called a non-anxious presence, and I prayed it every day for a long time because I dealt with tremendous anxiety. I remember I was waking up with a knot in my stomach and worrying about the to-do list of the day. It wasn’t anything in particular, just everything together because it was a big job.
I remember praying over and over and over, “Why do I live with this level of anxiety?” There was a line in there that said, “If you answered this prayer, Lord, there are only two people that will know it, You and me.”
That was an insight for me into prayer, that if He changes me, other people may or may not notice. That’s not the point. The point is growing and knowing that He’s sovereign and loves me.
Many people who have been in a serious health crisis will say that they almost didn’t want to get better because they knew it meant leaving the intimacy they had with Christ. In leaving that pain, they would no longer have the same intimacy and vulnerability with God.
Why Is Prayer So Important?
After 40-plus years of ministry, watching people, hearing troubles, going through troubles, watching churches, and the incredible experiences God has given, I’ve concluded that so many Christians don’t know how to pray. They don’t understand that prayer is a discipline and a relationship.
If I’m given this privilege of teaching the Bible and encouraging people to grow in their spiritual lives, it would seem prayer would be a good thing for them to be more confident in. So we’ve used The Handbook To Prayer, the A-C-T-S prayer, The Valley of Vision, Joy and Strength. It was all to provoke people to not overlook the discipline of prayer.
Years ago, Howard Hendricks told me to study why Jesus prayed and when He prayed. He spent all night in prayer the day before He chose the disciples. After healing the multitudes, He sneaks up to the sea of Galilee and prays all night to the Lord. If the God of the universe, the God-man, felt it was important to Him to pray, who am I? Who are we to think we can live the Christian life apart from prayer?
Repetition: The Good And The Bad
Many people say, “I don’t understand prayer,” or they use meaningless repetition. If you’re talking to the God of the universe, why would you say the same thing every time you open your mouth? The negative instruction God gives is “Don’t have meaningless repetition.” He doesn’t say there is only one way to pray. Instead, He shows there are prayers throughout scripture for us.
Hannah’s Prayer in 1 Samuel 2:1-10
Daniel’s Prayer in Daniel 9:4-19
Jesus tells the religious leaders that they will not be heard by the meaningless repetition of many words. We connect with Christ so deeply by praying the scripture back to Him.
When I was in seminary, I had three or four other seminary students, and we would skip lunch on Friday and go into a classroom and kneel on those hard linoleum floors with those very uncomfortable chairs and pray A-C-T-S. It was very interesting because we sat down and looked at what it means to truly adore God. Confession isn’t as simple as confessing a sin. A true confessional means communicating the truth of scripture back to God. This would be a good place to read a Psalm or one of Paul’s prayers. Adoration and thanksgiving are wonderful exercises in prayer. What can you thank God for? We can’t be thankful people if we focus on what’s wrong all the time.
What we learned in that semester of seminary was when you go through adoration first, confession second, thanksgiving third, your supplications get pretty short. You’ve aligned yourself with who God is. You confess your sin thanking him. If you approach your Father, who loves you unconditionally, who cares about you completely, who knows everything, and wants your best, why would you not worship Him?
One Thing Everyone Needs To Know About Prayer
Get your nose in the Word. The high acceptance of sin won’t change until people are consistently in the Word of God. The goal is not to change the world but to change the minds and hearts of believers to understand what it means to believe. If people could spend as little as five minutes in the Word every day, you’re not going to see yourself drifting away. God is not mad at you if you don’t spend all day in the Word. He loves you. He wants your heart.
We need to understand that prayer is not checking a box to get God’s favor. The God of the universe loves us, and we need to be in His Word to be recalibrated and recentered. So many things change when we shift our perspective on prayer in this way.
About Cindy Easley
Cindy was born in Houston, Texas. She graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology and Social Rehabilitation. In addition to her studies, Cindy also met her husband while attending Stephen F. Austin State University. Michael and Cindy were married in 1980. They have three daughters and one son.
Cindy is a nationally known speaker with the Family Life Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference. She also speaks for women’s conferences and retreats. Cindy is the author of Dancing with the One You Love: Living out submission in the real world. (Moody Publishing) She has been featured in both radio and television programs, including Moody Broadcasting Network’s Prime Time America, Revive our Hearts, Midday Connection, Janet Parshall’s America, Chris Fabry Live, Family Life Today and Focus on the Family.