In our closing week of exploring the Benefits of Prayer, I’m focusing on the relationships we depend on; our relationship with God, with our self and with others. Undeniably, praying will bring us closer to God, but can it also give us better relationships with people?
In contrast to how the questions that spurred this series might sound, I believe all prayers are heard and answered.
It’s just that we probably aren’t praying for:
“That’s not big picture enough.”
“I want to show you something first.”
or some version of this hardest to comprehend and most frustrating answer,
“I won’t be removing that thorn, but you will grow closer to me and bring others to me in spite of or even because of it. Trust my grace is sufficient for you. I will see you through.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)
Those are all answers. It’s just that we receive them with far less fanfare and celebration.
When reading to understand scripture, it can sometimes help to review the definition of words that spark your interest. Even if the words are very familiar, taking a closer look can still bring greater understanding.
One word where I found this to be true is “receive”. Let’s look together.
Definition of Receive
- Be a holding place for God’s gifts, EVEN WHEN I wish there was a gift receipt and I could trade them out for something on my wish list of solutions.
- Welcome and greet his gifts, often by utilizing other gifts he’s already provided. (i.e. Use his joy to welcome an opportunity to grow in him.)
- More readily accept his gifts as authoritative (or accurate) for me
- Receive his strength as I bear the weight of my weakness
- He leaves an everlasting impression on my heart.
So many times our own emotional hangups get in the way of our earthly relationships and our relationship with God. Taking a little time to clear the mind of busy thoughts and make space to connect with God goes a long way towards inner healing and improving all our relationships! The sign of a good practice is not what happens during the practice. The sign of a good practice is actually what begins to transform afterwards – in our heart, in our life, in our relationships! Consistency is key and this How to Do Christian Meditation series is a great way to start on that path!
Letting God Guide Your Relationships
God’s love for us and his call for us to love him and others, is at the core of Christian guiding principles. Having a better relationship with God certainly benefits all of our other relationships, too! By putting others first and looking for ways to build them up we become a better spouse, employee, friend, parent, whatever our role may be for each relationship.
1) Better Relationship with God
“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10
“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8
Approaching God in prayer reminds us he is sovereign and we are in need of his grace. Meeting him this way sharpens our focus and keeps us ever sensitive to anything putting distance between our hearts and his. Our relationship with him is like our other loving relationships. The more time we spend together, the closer we become.
2) Healthy Relationship with Self
“In Christ, you have been brought to fullness.” Colossians 2:10
Nothing is missing. Feeling loved and confident in who God says we are, with or without the answer we desire is truly life-changing. I use this verse to remind myself “I Am Complete” in a powerful, daily affirmation.
“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31
I also affirm this verse to myself by saying, “I Am Strong!”.
Praying brings us closer to our creator, the one by whom all scripture is inspired. The more time we spend with God, the more his message of completion and excellence begins to settle in our hearts. Loving ourselves consequently sets us up to love our neighbor, which happens to be next on the list.
3) Better Relationships with Others
Sometimes relationships are just how we hope. Nice and easy. Everyone’s on the same page.
Sometimes relationships are hard. Love is eclipsed with looming frustration, fear, and bitterness.
Dealing with relationships can be tricky when we feel a big prayer of our own is going unanswered. It is hard to focus on others when we feel an unmet need. This disconnect multiplies if the unanswered prayer has to do with a problem person or relationship.
How to Be a Better Partner in a Relationship
Praying to receive God, rather than the desired outcome, seems to share many of the same benefits as volunteering. Because volunteering takes the focus off oneself and places it on others with presumably greater needs, it is often recommended for combating depression.
Heightened focus on our relationship with God, rather than our need for a specific answer, likewise grows us in wisdom and maturity. Both volunteering and walking with God often take us out of our comfort zone but birth new skills.
Volunteering lends our life purpose, as does abandoning our perceived needs, and in turn giving ourselves over fully to God, living the life he planned for us. When we volunteer ourselves in prayer, we also mirror Jesus who intercedes for us (see Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:34).
God Confidence vs Self Confidence
When we feel complete in our faith and insecurities about ourselves are quieted, it strongly impacts our outward relationships. We stop the tendency to require more of ourselves and others than even our Father God does. Seeing righteousness as something granted based on belief, rather than something earned, makes everyone equal; an image bearer in need of grace.
“The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will.” Isaiah 50:4
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32
“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:35-40
All tied up in a pretty little package, each post in this Benefits of Prayer series can be summarized as volunteering for:
More of him. Less of me. No matter what.
Father God, often in my rush to get to what’s next I’m tempted to rush you. I impatiently overlook your tender mercies and underestimate all that you’re doing in my life. Forgive me of this attitude. Help me to be present with you and as a result, be present with others.
I praise you and stand amazed that you ask me to come near to you. I ask you to sharpen my focus on you, keeping me from being unstable and double-minded in my impatience. Thank you for completing me in Christ Jesus and allowing me to soar with renewed energy.
Send your spirit to remind me, as often as necessary, to love you with all my heart, soul, and mind and enable me to love my neighbor as myself. Thank you for not rushing to simply answer my requests, but instead lavishing your grace upon me so I more clearly reflect you.