Every night as a child, I knelt by my bed and prayed these words:
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Amen.
I never asked, “God, do you hear me?” after I chanted these words. Instead, I took for granted that God was listening and answering.
As a seven-year-old, this was how I prayed. This was what I knew; in my young mind, it was sufficient.
I would wake up the next morning and begin my day believing God had answered my prayer to keep me safe.
Praying as a Young Child was Easy
Praying for the first forty years of my life sounded pretty much like my bedtime prayer as a child. Prayers were repeated, memorized, and completed as a practice I brought into adulthood. Praying as a child uncovered an easiness that as a sixty-something-year-old, I don’t relate to in the same way.
Prayer was set aside for specific times or occasions:
Saying grace before mealtime,
Ending the day by my bedside,
Joining in communal prayer at church,
And prayers that marked seasonal times on the church calendar such as Advent and Lent.
I took for granted the gift of prayer that I was learning.
I didn’t know that God treasured the times I prayed and called upon His name.
Prayers were recited because my parents prayed the same prayers and asked us to follow in their footsteps.
And then the idea of prayer changed. Holy Spirit opened my eyes.
Holy Spirit Infused Prayer
I was sitting in a new church with my sons and heard these words:
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you… Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matt.6:6,8, NIV).
This is the prelude to the Our Father, which I remember praying from a very young age. Reciting a prayer without context left me wondering as an adult how little I really knew about prayer.
My eyes and heart were opened in new ways as I sat and heard God’s Word for what felt like the first time. The assumption that God heard the prayers that I carried from childhood now became the question– “God, do you really hear me?”
The simplicity I knew as a child became more complicated. Not in a judgmental way but in a desire to know more and go deeper. I never knew that God craved a relationship with me. In this new church, a new dawning and clarity enveloped the foundation of faith that my parents graciously gifted my brothers and me.
One of my favorite verses from Romans beautifully shares how the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don’t know what to pray.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26, NIV).
The next verse continues to say that the Holy Spirit’s intercessions are according to God’s will.
This is Holy Spirit-infused prayer. God knows us intimately and sends the Holy Spirit to help us pray for the deepest desires of our hearts.
Praying as an Adult
The shift in my forties to knowing God and His desire to have a relationship with me changed who I am today.
Prayer is not just a time of reciting memorized words, but a time of communion with the One who cherishes hearing from me.
There is a give and take now when I pray, that as a child, looked like an acceptance that prayer was black and white.
I take the time to talk to God as a friend and on the other side I spend time listening for His response. As a youngster kneeling beside my bed, I never knew that God cared so much that He wanted to respond to me.
I wrote this several years ago …
Prayer is a gift. I no longer just recite memorized prayers but spend time in gratitude, worship, contemplation, and exhortation to my Father God. I am so grateful and the good news is that God is grateful too. God, Do You Hear Me? Click To Tweet
Prayer is not only a spiritual discipline but also a spiritual privilege. When I am tempted to check it off my daily “to do” list, I need to pause and know the truth of what a gift it is to pray. May we know the gift of prayer and engage it in daily with gratitude and faithfulness.
When I ask the question, “God, do you hear me” now, the answer is a resounding “yes” because I know the Father and He knows me.
What have you learned about prayer over the years?
Empowering and equipping women to live life well!
Here are some more posts about prayer:
And here is a book that made a huge difference in how I pray. The Circlemaker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears by Mark Batterson (affiliate link).