I just wanted to be humble enough and surrendered enough so that I would remember that on my knees was a sure place of refuge. There were many occasions when I recall chiding myself for not praying enough and it wasn’t really about not praying enough but at a particular time, I considered my prayers to be unary and therefore possibly ineffective.
I repetitively prayed for the same thing so I thought that God would surely get tired of hearing the same request over and over. I contemplated that if God was fed up (although I knew that He couldn’t be) then maybe I should lessen the frequency of my prayers altogether.
The problem with that type of thinking was that it did not sufficiently acknowledge that my time in prayer was most importantly an investment in my intimate relationship with God. When I got to the point where prayer time became supplication time only, then I knew I was on a dangerous slippery slope. Where was the adoration and exaltation in my prayers, or the confession and thanksgiving? I even counseled myself that it was much more than asking in a single-minded rote manner but that it was an avenue for the downward flow of comfort, reassurance, and rest in God. Yet, I struggled.
I made prayer time about me and I knew that was far from correct. My predicament was that the singular thought or request dominated my mind so much that whenever I thought it necessary to pray about a different topic my heart posture was almost coerced instead of a whole-hearted genuine desire. A dear friend in explaining a similar situation about her prayer life described it as pride seeping into her heart, and she was absolutely correct.
There is a thin line between faithful, expectant prayer, and prideful demanding prayers, but how would we know when we have crossed the line? Or what about the opposite; when pride inhibits us from asking in the first place or when it causes us to demand how and when our prayers should be answered? I call that the Naaman syndrome (2 Kings 5).
Naaman was a high-ranking member of the Aramian army who was suffering from leprosy. A little Israeli servant girl suggested that he go to the Israelite prophet Elisha to be healed but when the prophet told him to wash 7 times in the Jordan river to receive his healing, humility fled and pride stormed into his heart. He refused to perform what he deemed a denigrating act, even if that was the avenue to his healing. Luckily for Naaman, he heeded the wise counsel of another to abandon pride and to do as he was directed by the prophet, and so he was healed.
Pride and prayer don’t go together, I had to remind myself. I had to teach myself that there were other scriptures in the Bible about prayer other than keep asking and you will receive (Mathew 7:7) or whatever you ask of God in Jesus’s name will be given (John 14:13). I had to remember that Jesus advised His disciples to not let prayer decline into vain repetition (Mathew 6:7) or what I call empty babbling.
Trust me, empty babbling can happen to the best of us if we forget what God is trying to tell us or how He is trying to lead us in a particular season, and instead constantly hammer Him with the same request, as I was doing. He even promised us that before we ask He will answer us (Isaiah 65:24).
As I contemplated the quality of my prayer life, the Holy Spirit nudged me to confess, “Lord, keep me on my knees”. The directive had very little to do with my physical posture and everything to do with the conviction to stay in constant and sincere prayer to God. There were a host of other people and issues that I needed to take to the throne of God beyond praying for myself and my loved ones, including prayer for my brothers and sisters in Christ (James 5:16).
It is easy to become wrapped up in your own situation and neglect praying for others. It is also easy for pride to seep into your prayer time and result in ineffective prayer.
God blessed us with our son after months of fervent prayer by our 'village' during a difficult pregnancy. I can stand on this side of the answered prayer and say that although my prayer was singular and repetitive during those 9 months, it was still answered by God. It is hard to admit that my prayer life wasn’t great during those months but I now rejoice in the revelation and confirmation that it was never my works (how well, varied or often I prayed) that brought the desired result, but it was only God’s grace.
I have cried with and prayed for many women who were and are struggling with conception or difficult pregnancies and I know firsthand, that it's not the strength or frequency of our prayers that make the difference. My simple advice is to never descend into pity, self-abhorrence, defeat, or anger toward God because one thing is certain: He heard you. Whether you asked once or a million times; in His timing and according to His will, He will respond.
Regardless of how well you think you’ve been praying, it’s the grace of God that meets every need and answers every prayer; so with a sincere and seeking heart, stay on your knees.
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