Early African believers were earnest and regular in private devotions. Each one reportedly had a separate spot in the thicket where he would pour out his heart to God. Over time, the paths to these places became well worn. As a result, if one of these believers began to neglect prayer, it was soon apparent to the others. They would kindly remind the negligent one, “Brother, the grass grows on your path.”
I don’t know if you’re like me, but prayer doesn’t come naturally and grass grows on my path often. However, I am convinced that conversation with God (like quality conversation between a husband and wife) is like fuel for the fire of love. Without prayer in its varied forms, our love grows cold and our ability to obey will fade.
The willingness of God married to the weakness of man: That’s prayer in a nutshell. It’s a marriage of sorts. It’s not strong people who are marked by prayer. It’s weak people who know a willing Bridegroom who carry the mark of prayer on their lives. Jesus longs for nothing more than to see Heaven on Earth. The mystery of prayer has held great place in literature, history, and science. However, one thing remains evident as we look throughout the ages. Men and women whose knees and knuckles are marked by kneeling and knocking have been the very ones whom God used to bring heaven to Earth.
If we desire to be people of prayer who do not grow cold in our love we would do well to who consistently place ourselves close to the red-hot fire of His eternal flame. We must make His words central in our list of priorities: He said in Matthew 18:18: “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” He also said in the Sermon on the Mount: “Ask, and it will be given you; search and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus wanted us to grasp the privilege and responsibility we had to stand with him in bringing Heaven to Earth. How do we accomplish this more practically?
If we look at prayer as a one time moment by moment reality, we miss the context of much of what Jesus taught on the Kingdom. His teaching reflected process, nearly always. Instantaneous answers only come from Genies. God’s not a genie. He’s a gardener. He works with seed, time, and harvest.
There are five movements that we will flow in and out of in our place before God:
1) Asking 2) Seeking 3) Knocking 4) Waiting 5) Receiving
Asking leads us into a conversation about promise, both hearing and talking about the will and ways of God. We must dialogue with God through hearing His word to gain faith to believe for the good will of the Father. He whispers His heart though His word and the seed is planted. Faith begins to emerge.
Seeking leads us into searching His word for His response. The seed needs the soil of promise to fertilize it. As we seek confirmation of His promise through the word, and might I add through much more “non-spiritual” means in the world, we find God confirming His word and His promise. He will give us a prophetic word through a brother who has no idea what we have been asking of God. He may lead you into a movie theatre where He’s going to give you a giant mirror in which to reflect the promise He has just sewn into your heart. Once again, he is able to use non-orthodox means to confirm His word and firm up His promise in your heart, but primarily we will find His responses directly coming from His inspired word.
Knocking leads us to action. We have now gone from our knees to our knuckles. From bowing down to rising up. We discover ourselves standing more publicly with Christ contending for the doors to be opened for His kingdom to break through. Asking is a conversation, seeking is a journey, and knocking brings the breakthrough. Each of them are unique seasons, but all of them are prayer.
Waiting leads us to let the seed grow. This is far from a season of inactivity. It’s a season of continued knocking and seeking, but with a firm grasp that we will receive His response in His time not ours. Many times in the scripture this is called being “watchful.” We are watchful in our anticipating of His promise to return. We are watchful in anticipating His response to “lift us up in due time.”
Receiving: leads us to gather in the harvest. This is some of the sweetest seasons, but it’s also a season to share and to scatter. Prayer is more about the journey than the process, therefore this season completes a beautiful cycle and leads us back into asking, maybe for ourselves, maybe for others. Once we taste of the faithfulness of God, we will gain boldness and ask for greater things.
I have discovered three fundamentals of prayer that have helped me walk through the five movements many times.
- Schedule a time: If you don’t mark down a time on your calendar to converse with God, the season never starts. If the season never starts, the season never ends. The Kingdom only comes through being alongside the King. We must make talking with God a priority in our day.
- Create a space: The first thing I do when setting up my office/home is find the place where I’ll be sitting and meeting with God. I think God honors space. If you will designate a chair, a rug, a pew, a path, to the Lord, He will honor it and meet you there even as you enter that space. You don’t have to say hello God. He’s there before you. He knows why you’ve come.
- Tools on hand: Before I begin building anything, I make sure the proper tools are in hand. The same goes with prayer. If we want to be marked by prayer, we need at least three tools: a good Bible, a good journal, a good pen. It’s hard to have faith in what you’re unwilling to write down. Write it down, circle it, do something. By faith, take the promise from your Bible to your world. It’s the first time that promise will literally move from sacred to secular space.
May it never be said of our generation that we allowed the grass to grow on our path of history. We won’t be 100%, but we can be better than we were last year. We may not feel excitement as we consistently pursue Him, but His promise is that He is always with us. Our work is to cry out day and night for His promise of bringing all things together in Heaven and on Earth. “Your Kingdom come.” Speak this promise now. Start to whisper it throughout your day.