You arrived 5 minutes early and sit down at a table in the corner of a coffee shop. You’re excited because today you are meeting up with an old college friend. You went to the same college, and quickly found that you had many things in common. Though you chose different career paths, you were in the same clubs together, and cherished each other’s friendship. You haven’t seen each other in several years, and you’re excited to catch up.
When she arrives, you notice the ring on her finger. You point it out and congratulate her. You’re surprised to discover that she already has a child, with another on the way. As you each talk about post-college life, you ask if she is still involved in that hobby you both enjoyed. She explains that she is no longer interested in it and has taken up another, one that you never would have anticipated her enjoying. As the conversation moves on, you sense a growing sadness in your heart, realizing that the person in front of you is not the same friend you had in college. She has changed. The joys and sorrows of life have shaped her into someone else. You wonder at how all of this happened, and how you did not know about it...
Many of us have had these types of experiences—we meet with old friends or colleagues to catch up, only to find that they are different than we remember. Depending on how long it has been since you last talked, the changes in their lives may seem drastic. But change can happen slowly, and it often goes unnoticed when we are in close proximity. When we are in regular communication with someone, we get to hear about things as they unfold, and we process with others as they go through these experiences. Regular conversation is important and necessary for maintaining relationship.
Now our most important and necessary relationship—more so than with our friends, children, coworkers, or even spouse—is our relationship with God. For those of us who confess Jesus Christ as our Savior, we believe that we have an intimate relationship with God, and we acknowledge that it is (or at least, should be) most important in our lives. While our relationship with God is unlike any of human origin, it still needs the care and attention that other relationships need. And one of the centerpieces of our relationship with God is prayer.
Prayer involves a lot of things. We know that prayer is necessary for Christian living; none of us are ever at a point in our walk of faith that we do not need prayer. Paul exhorts us to prayer without ceasing in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Revelation 5:8 tells us the prayers of God’s people are a pleasing aroma to God. Jesus teaches us how to pray in Matthew 6:5-13. If even Jesus—the Son of God and one with God—took time from his busy ministry to pray alone to the Father (Luke 5:15-16), how much more so do we, being sinful and fallen, need to spend time in prayer?
Yet often people do not regard regular prayer to be necessary. They may say with their mouths that prayer is important, but in their day-to-day lives they do not go to God in regular prayer. They pray to God fervently when they have need or are in distress, but they do not do so when things are going well. I notice this in my own life as well; I do not give the firstfruits of my time to God in prayer. At most, I give him the remnants of the day, the dwindling minutes of the night before passing into sleep.
Why do we treat prayer this way? Perhaps this pattern in behavior results because we have fundamentally misunderstood what prayer is. At its most basic, prayer is conversation with God. As we read earlier, conversation is a necessary part of relationship. Why then do we think that we can maintain our relationship with God without regular conversation? Do we believe God is uninterested in the daily happenings of our lives? Do we believe that conversational prayer is not necessary, since God knows everything anyways? But conversational prayer is necessary because we cannot have faith in someone we don’t know, and we cannot know someone if we do not converse with them.
Prayer is a way for us to see and seek the heart of God. Do we see God as utterly separate and removed from us—too holy for us to approach with our mundane worries and requests—or do we heed the call of Hebrews 4:16 to, because of Jesus, “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace”? God cares about the little things too; He wants you to speak with Him. Jesus has given us access to the Father, such that we can go directly to Him with our daily lives. Though He never changes and is always with us, how do we expect our relationship with Him to thrive if we do not talk with Him? Talk to Him; tell Him about how your day has been. He’s right next to you, always ready and desiring to listen. Pray, converse, grow.