engage 1-15

The Other Side of Prayer
By Kevin Young

“Whatever else it embraces, true Christian experience must always include a genuine encounter with God. Without this, religion is but a shadow, a reflection of reality, a cheap copy of an original once enjoyed by someone else of whom we have heard.” 
By A.W. Tozer, from A Divine Conquest

As a new believer I remember struggling to understand how to love and follow a God I couldn’t see, hear or touch. Alone in my dorm room, while everyone else I knew had left to party, I would talk with Him deep into the night. Then I suddenly realized He was there with me—a genuine encounter!

Since those first "baby steps" in prayer, I have discovered that if I can get past simply seeking answers, there’s another side filled with motivation to seek a more authentic devotion to God. If you have a hard time staying consistent in prayer, perhaps a trip on the other side will give you reason to press onward.

“Nothing builds authentic relationship the way prayer does.”

Several years ago one of my children came running into my room in the middle of the night, terrified by a dream. It was a night that I had awakened to pray. She looked at me puzzled, then told my wife, “Mom, Daddy is sleeping on his head!”

There are times I too am terrified, anxious about events and circumstances too heavy to carry. Usually, He awakens me, and I find He’s been waiting to talk, waiting to “help my weakness” (Romans 8:26). As I kneel on my bed with my head in the pillow, I feel hope seep back into me.

Prayer offers me a chance to catch at least dimly a glimpse of God’s nature. It is the conduit through which all my human response to that nature flows back to God. Whenever that miracle happens, I feel most alive. King David said, “To the Lord I cry aloud, and He answers me from His holy hill” Psalm 3:4). David knew that the way to an authentic relationship with God was through human utterance. Sometimes emotional, other times irrational, and often desperate, yet all directed by faith toward His heavenly audience of One. He experienced a living interchange, and transcribed it through every song he wrote. From the very first, “His delight is in the law of the Lord” (Psalm 1:2). David sought to follow a person, not a creed. That brought incredible emotion to his expression. “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12).

The irony of this relationship can be most vividly understood in observing a moth by a flame. The flame builds an urgent attraction within the moth, which in turn causes the moth to fly too close and be consumed. When we draw near to the light of a Holy God described as a consuming fire, we too will be consumed. Holy men and women of God have allowed that flame to extinguish their flesh, until nothing of their old self remains. Prayer builds urgency in my heart to fly toward the flame. In that way, prayer allows me to become more like the God I worship.

“Prayer links my finite short-range sight with God’s infinite long-range plan.”

If I want to “walk in the light, as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7), God must direct my steps. When I hear Him speak, I can be confident to walk into the unknown. Prayer puts my hand into the hand of God! In Psalm 6, David cries out, “My soul is in anguish,” but quickly adds, “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy.” How often I have been at my wits' end, shaken and unable to move forward. Yet, after a season of prayer, a strength and resolve enter my spirit, and though the circumstances are unchanged, I can face them like David and say, “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart” (Psalm 7:10). Again, David asserts, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in time of trouble” (Psalm 9:9).

I pray as David prayed, in order to find a refuge, Someone who knows the path ahead, and knows me intimately, forming events that shape my will. “The Lord is in His holy temple, the Lord is on His heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them” (Psalm 11:4). God orchestrates events in my life that cause me to trust Him. There’s nothing more fragile to step upon than five minutes into the future. Yet, nothing stronger when my frame rests upon the unseen shoulders of the Shepherd (Psalm 28:9). Faith cannot be faith if it’s applied on my own terms. A degree of uncertainty is attached to everything God demands of me. It’s my response to those demands that either pleases or discourages the heart of God. 

David understood the value of faith. How many times after he described a nearly untenable situation, he would tell God, “But as for me, I will trust in you” (Psalm 55:23). King George, during a New Year’s Eve speech, echoed his sentiments when he said, “I asked the man at the gate of the year, give me a light, that I may walk safely into the unknown; but he said to me stretch out your hand, and place it into the hand of God, and it will be to you better than the light, and safer than the known.”

“What if God had never given the gift of prayer?"

My understanding of God’s nature would be relegated to words on a page if I didn’t have the gift of prayer. Untouched by His unseen flame, blind to His outstretched hand, and deaf to His still small voice, I would find myself with only a rational understanding of God. Made in His image, I find human response and expression, which can go beyond the intellectual and touch on the emotions. That’s why David could say, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11). And here again, Tozer reminds us: “It cannot but be a major tragedy in the life of any man to live in a church from childhood to old age and know nothing more real than some synthetic god compounded of theology and logic, but having no eyes to see, no ears to hear, and no heart to love.”

I can’t read the Psalms without nearly shouting over how David’s passion for God brought him to the very depths of His nature. In his example I find hope to follow that same path. He spent hours alone with God, looking up into the stars, forming words to express His emotions and to postulate His understanding of God’s ways. He wrestled for a deep desire to know God and be known by Him. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). God was not some mechanical deity who demanded homage. He was to David, Someone worth the struggle to seek, because when he found Him nothing else in the entire world tasted so sweet.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Here's some tips to SPICE up your prayer life.

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