If you are married or have been in a romantic relationship, you likely can recall some special times or seasons when you were overwhelmed by the way your loved one planned the perfect setting with great care and attention to detail. Perhaps it involved music, a special event, a quiet dinner, or just a peaceful evening watching a glorious sunset at your favorite spot. What made this experience significant in your mind is the time and effort taken by another person to please you and to express his or her heartfelt love.
When was the last time you took such care and made such a profound effort to meet with the One who loves you more deeply than any human on earth has the capacity to do? He is the One who has given you eternal life, blessed you and cared for you spiritually, emotionally and physically…and who has promised never to leave you or forsake you…in good times or in the midst of suffering. Jesus is worthy of our deepest love and affection. He is worthy of the time we spend creating an atmosphere that welcomes His presence no matter the situation or season of life we are in…whether in our most joyous thankful moments or when our hearts are broken and our lives are shattered.
What if we, as believers, spent as much time preparing our hearts to create a place where Jesus feels welcomed and cherished as we would for a family member or friend…a place where we can have an intimate conversation, hug tightly when life is hard, or simply enjoy each other’s company? Prayer is that space for every believer!
I can assure you, that if you will take the time to create a sacred space in your heart and life with God, your seasons of prayer will be deeper and richer and more powerful than ever. He is the One we adore and He deserves all of our affection and attention. So, before you next spend time in prayer, consider asking and reflecting on these questions during a quiet season of preparation:
- Is my heart in right relationship with God and others? Have you renounced any idolatry to things that take up more time than you are willing to pour into your relationship with God (social media, sports, television, etc.)? Have you emptied yourself in order to make room for Jesus? Is there anything you need to confess or anyone you need to make things right with before praying? “But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive you your sins too (Mark 11:25 TLB).”
- Am I focused upon entering the throne room of heaven to stay for a while, or am I intent on rushing through my prayer list for the day? How have you ordered your day so that the best part is given to Jesus? Will He have your full attention, or are there distractions to pull your attention away from His face? Can you picture the Father sitting on His throne attentively focused upon you as you enter His throne room…and into His very presence? Consider how you might “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) throughout your day, just as your thoughts might be drawn to a human relationship continually.
- Do I worship Him because of my deep love for Him…adoring His beauty and majesty? Sometimes it is easy to forget our First Love and let other things and other people in life take greater importance. If we will take the time to worship in spirit and truth (for this kind of worship is true prayer), the other things we have our hearts set on begin to fall away and become lesser in our hearts. “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23). Sometimes we have to lay our lists aside because we forget what we wanted to ask for in the midst of His beauty and majesty. Are you ready to worship Him? Do you long to spend time focused upon His loveliness?
- Do I draw near to Him with the kind of anticipation and expectation that is fueled by a childlike faith? Jesus made much of the faith of children and urged us to come to Him this way. Are you excited to meet with Jesus, anticipating what He might show you or say to you? Do you delight in His presence and believe He will hear and answer? Are you willing to humble yourself and perhaps even posture yourself in a position to experience Jesus in whatever way you imagine a child would?
- Do my prayers bring honor and glory to Jesus? This is a vital question to ask ourselves as so often we become more intent upon our own selfish desires. If our prayers are not focused upon the kingdom of God and His plans and purposes being accomplished for His glory alone, then there is always a danger of the focus being taken off of the Father and put onto us. Praying with an open Bible often keeps our prayer focus upon the things that God desires.
- Are my prayers focused on His will being done on earth or my will being done in heaven? Even Jesus had to bow His will to the will of the Father and submit to death on a cross; however, His prayer was, “…not my will but yours be done (Luke 22:42).” This is particularly difficult when we pray for healing or for things that seem good to us, but the outcome is beyond our understanding. We must learn to trust that His will is always perfect and that His ways are not our ways. Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit knows the mind of God (1 Corinthians 2:11), and that we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). What power is at our disposal to discern the Father’s will!
- Am I yielded to hear what He might say to me? We often spend most of our time in prayer talking to God and not spending a lot of time listening to what He may have to say to us. The priest Eli told young Samuel, when the Lord called him, to say: “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:9 NASB). This is good instruction for us all. Quietly wait for Him to call your name, or to give you instructions for your day…or even just for the moment you find yourself in. Sometimes all you will hear is an affirmation of His great love for you…but you will miss it if you don’t take the time to wait for such an encouragement. Perhaps you will hear nothing…and that is okay too, for you are spending time in His presence. If you have ever just sat quietly with someone you love, you know that sometimes nothing needs to be said…and yet, you know what is in one another’s heart.
- Am I able to “pray without ceasing”? Think about creating an atmosphere that allows your thoughts to turn towards the Father continually throughout your day much as would happen with a human “love interest” that one would wish to call or make contact with as often as one’s thoughts turned towards this person. What needs to happen in your life in order for Jesus to take first place in your thoughts, so that communing with Him becomes as natural as breathing? Consider prayers of continual gratitude, which is an incredibly powerful way to keep your thoughts fixed upon God.
- Are my prayers a sweet sacrifice with an aroma pleasing to the Father? God is pleased when His people come to Him in prayer. “God, come close. Come quickly! Open your ears—it’s my voice you’re hearing! Treat my prayer as sweet incense rising; my raised hands are my evening prayers” (Psalm 141:1-2 MSG). Imagine your prayer life as incense rising up to the nostrils of God. How will that change the way you seek Him?
If you will sincerely take time to create a spiritual atmosphere that will attract God’s presence, He will draw near and your communion with Him will be meaningful and rich. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).