I need more bookshelves in my house. In our main living area, I only have a small bookshelf that holds about 60 books. In my basement office/store room I have more bookshelves, where I keep quite a few other books.
Over time, it seems like books begin accumulating in piles around the house - quite a few on my nightstand, some near the sofas, little stacks here and there, handy to grab and read.
About once a year, I do the book shuffle. During the book shuffle, the books I am currently most interested in go in the little bookshelf. This means that some books that were on the bookshelf get demoted to the basement.
Yesterday I took 22 books on prayer down to the basement. They will join another dozen or more books about prayer. With all these books, I must have the prayer thing down, right?
Actually, it has always been something that I wish I were better at. Surely one of those books has the key to effective prayer so that I could feel like I'm really doing it right. So why are the books headed to the basement?
Most of the titles were some combination of the words Power, Prayer, Keys, Secret, Prophetic, Effective, and Intercession. They are good books, but leave me feeling like I have to pray well in order for God to hear me.
I don't think the point of prayer is about what I say or how I say it. I don't think that God needs me to pray a certain way. I know that the Father already knows my needs before I pray. In fact, I don't think that God needs me to pray at all.
But I need to pray. And I need to worship. Apparently my memory is short, because I need to continually remind myself of the goodness and faithfulness of God, and I need to frequently remember to submit my heart to Him.
So how do I pray? Mostly informally and spontaneously.
When I have quiet time, I like to put on a worship CD and spend time in the Lord's presence, mostly just listening for Him.
I pray at random times throughout the day. If I'm out walking alone, I usually pray. Quite often I pray in my van. As things come up during the day, I will pray. I try to pray right away if possible when I feel the need to pray for someone or something so that I won't forget. I usually drift off to sleep at the end of the day while praying.
Frequently, I find myself praying the Lord's prayer, or at least starting out there. I love praying "thy kingdom come" and applying it to situations. Other than that, my prayers are mostly conversational, sharing my thoughts or worries with the Lord, usually praying in the Spirit also.
Prayer is important to me. Spending time talking with God helps me get perspective. Just a few moments with Him can center and balance me, whereas hours of pondering or fretting leaves my thoughts spinning in circles. Just a word from Him, spoken to my heart, really is like bread to sustain me or like water to quench my thirst.
I admire people with flowery sounding prayers. There is something to be said for those who pray well, who know the bases that need to be covered, and who somehow manage to address all of the angles.
I don't like praying publicly now. My prayers are too simplistic. I seem to have forgotten the good prayer lingo. I don't really need it when it's just me and God, but I sometimes feel like I ought to have something fancier to pull out for other folks.
I'm still learning to pray, but for now I'm going to put away the books and let the Holy Spirit be my Teacher. What I say in prayer is not as important as what I hear in prayer.