There is a question that has shifted the way I pray. It has changed my perspective on many things, including my own heart, and it has opened my eyes to the vastness of God in a time when everything seems topsy turvy. I find myself asking this question near daily. I teach art ministry leaders to ask this question every time they get started launching their ministries. I ask it on my knees with my palms faced up in expectation- waiting for an answer; a position that reminds me to ask in humility and acknowledgement of my position before the Most High.
“What question do you want me to ask you?” I say to Him.
It seems an odd start to a conversation, but it reminds me that my limited words and language sometimes aren't adequate enough to understand and comprehend what God is doing. It also shifts the focus not to what I should be doing, but what He wants to speak. It comes assuming that Father, Son, Holy Spirit want to commune with me, even just to sit, and that there are things I don’t even know I need to know. For example: I might be preparing to lead a creative prayer time or session and might logically begin by asking God, “what should we do for this session?” or even, “When should we have this session?” But in asking the One who knows past present and future what question I should ask Him first, He seems to realign my heart and will to His quicker. He then can give answers before the questions. He can tell me who will be sitting in a art session before I know what we are doing. He can reveal what He wants to pray for rather than simply answering my prayers. Don’t hear me wrong- He LOVES when we pray, when we seek His heart for specific things, when we pray the things that are like heavy weights on our souls. Lately it seems there is a heavy cloak over everyones heart. Whether national division over politics, differing views over the pandemic, confusion or hurt over racial reconciliation or personal pain and family chaos- we are all shouting- "I don't even know how to pray right now!!" We don’t know what to ask Him because it all feels like too much. Yet I am comforted to know that I am not the first to feel stuck when coming to Jesus in prayer.
The disciples, when walking with Jesus one day, said to Him- “Teach us to pray”. What a beautiful, simple and humble request. It acknowledges that even though they might have been “praying” for 20 plus years, there was something they had not yet understood about prayer. They recognized they were missing something and asked Jesus to teach them. Sure, there was always a little shadiness in the disciples request for things, but Jesus honored their plea and showed them (and us) what we commonly refer to as the Lord’s prayer. Again in one of Paul's letters he shares that when we don’t know what to pray that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us with groans and utterances that we can’t understand. I mean that's pretty rad.
When Jesus taught us to pray, “THY Kingdom come, THY will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” it positions us to remember that we first should be praying His will- not ours- assuming His will is best and we likely don’t quite get it (at all). It is a place of submission, not widely popular these days, but vital as a Christ follower. It is a place of submission to the eternal lordship and leadership of Christ and a willingness to be part of His answers to the questions we don’t know to ask. Example 2: I can pray, “Jesus, will you clothe and feed those in our city today that need it?” Great thing to ask for. He can interpret, translate and answer this however He wants. But this prayer ends with a request of Him and excludes us from valuable conversation with our First Love. What if instead it looked something like this… “Jesus, I see people without food and clothes in our city. I believe you care. What should I ask you?” In this, we begin a dialogue with Him that leaves the box wide open for us to discover what He wants to do. He has space to converse with us in whatever way He desires because our hearts are now ready to hear whatever He wants to talk about. “Ask me how I feel about them,” He might whisper. He has space to lead us to cry for those without food (the gift of compassion) or to give us an idea of how to be present to one person (sometimes He will put a location on our hearts and in this place we meet who we need to meet.) Ask Him first how to pray. He gives us full freedom to have no idea where to begin and loves to meet us in that place. Come expecting Him to want to talk with you, cry with you, meet with you. Come expecting both silence and wonders. Expect Him to be God, but assume nothing. Expect He has something to say, don’t assume He will say it. Expect He will be kind, don’t assume you know how He will act on it. Expect He will answer, don’t assume you will know how. Oh beloved ones He has SO much He wants to say to us. So much to reveal and to talk about as we dive into His Word, His heart, intercession for others. As you pray for countless things in this time; as you come to Him with deep requests and burdens; as you talk about wanting to see His Kingdom come but don’t know how or what that looks like, let me remind you of one more verse, “ My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts, declares the Lord.” -Isaiah 55. Because of this, more than ever we must remain on our knees in humility asking Him how He wants to us to pray. We can pray God, let YOUR kingdom plans happen trusting they will be better than ours. Pray specifically. Pray out Scripture back to Him, but remember always that we are praying for His Kingdom and not ours.