Panting After God

My prayer life is a true struggle for me. I pray, but I wouldn’t say I pray well … whatever that means. (How does one “pray well?”)

Jesus prayed often. This is so much the case that Luke 22:39 describes Jesus as going off to pray and characterizes that with the phrase, “…as was his custom.” If ever lived a man who could navigate the trails of human life in the absence of prayer, Jesus was that man, but Jesus seemed to embody Paul’s exhortation to us, “Pray without ceasing.”1

Let us lift up our hearts and hands to God in heaven:
– Lamentations 3:41, ESV

Prayer comes about in myriad styles or fashions. Some of this variety comes through posture. Many will lift their hands in prayer whether standing or seated. Others will prostrate themselves, face to the ground. Still others will kneel in prayer while some dance as they pray.

Some will shout their prayers as an expression of praise or of grief. Others pray silently. Some pray with eyes open – others eyes closed. Some will write out their prayers as a journal or to be read before the congregation. Others pray extemporaneously.

We have biblical examples and instructions regarding prayer, and from examining these, it seems the only prohibition when it comes to prayer is the prayer of vain babbling and theatrical length.

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 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. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
– Matthew 6:5-8, NIV-1978

What I have come to realize is that, more than posture or eloquence, what is at issue before God is the posture of my heart. Yes, I can lift my hands. I can lift my voice. I can utter phrases with great fervor and passion. But much better it is to tear open my chest (metaphorically) and say, “Lord, here is my heart.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?

– Psalm 42:1-2, NIV-1978

The pure heart is a heart that will “pant after God,” and it is out of that pure heart that we are to cry out to God.2

If I had cherished sin in my heart,
    the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
    and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
    who has not rejected my prayer
    or withheld his love from me!

– Psalm 66:18-20, NIV-1978

So, when I am feeling dry in my prayer life, I don’t need another prayer book or prayer acronym to help me through that time. What I need is to reflect on my heart. When my heart is true and pure, the throne room of God is an inviting venue.

…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
– Hebrews 10:22, NIV-1978

Blessings upon you, my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon
Twitter – @DamonJGray
Facebook Author Page
YouTube Channel

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
2. 2 Timothy 2:22

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  1. Cathy Milligan on May 23, 2022 at 2:17 PM

    Our ‘private praise and prayer time’ is our spiritual barometer. Prayer is the work and some seasons we all struggle. I appreciate your honesty regarding this subject.

    • Damon J. Gray on May 23, 2022 at 2:23 PM

      Thank you Cathy, and welcome!
      I like the barometer analogy.

  2. Peggy Booher on May 23, 2022 at 7:49 PM

    I, too, appreciate your honesty. I can relate so much better to a pastor or teacher who admits they don’t “have it all together” than I can to someone who gets up to the pulpit with an “I have it all together, and here’s what you need to do to get it.” That kind of attitude turns me off right away.

    You may want to check the reference for the quote which begins “As the deer pants for streams of water…”, I think that is Psalm 42. One hot day I got a visual of that: a deer came down to the creek near our house , and it was so dry, it was panting. That was a long time ago, and I still remember that.

    • Damon J. Gray on May 24, 2022 at 4:41 AM

      GAH!! Thanks Peggy. The curse of “cut & paste” bites me again. I have to code those quotes with a lot of tagging to get them to show up as they do and, for ease, I will often copy the prior quote block and paste it below to retain that formatting.

      My friend, I do NOT have it all together. In fact, I have an accountability partner who keeps me honest. We meet regularly and when we do, the expectation is one of total transparency.

      “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”

      • Peggy Booher on May 25, 2022 at 7:31 AM

        I figured it was a technological gaffe.

        Our church urges accountability partners, but I’m not sure how many people do that. I do not, despite knowing the tremendous, life-changing value of it. I used to do that, with a friend who is very good at calling a spade a spade, but the friend had family members who needed her attention also, and she eventually moved farther away. I believe accountability keeps people from sin, because someone else can say to the person, “Do you really think this is a good thing to be involved in (or whatever the situation). I see some red flags here. Do you think God is pleased with this?”

        I am thinking I need to ask at church if anyone is available. I have friends who speak with me at church, and that helps, but it’s not a true accountability situation.

        • Damon J. Gray on May 25, 2022 at 9:23 AM

          I am very cautious with these types of relationships. The ability to trust is paramount. I had such a relationship years ago when ministering at Kansas University. When I moved to WA in 1991, I lost that, and was not able to re-establish such an accountability relationship until just this past year. That’s a 20+ year gap, which is not ideal, but it demonstrates the level of trust I am looking for in the relationship.

          It is EASY to take advantage, abuse, wound in these types of relationships.

          • Peggy Booher on May 26, 2022 at 3:09 PM

            Yes, it would be very easy to do so. I know people who have been hurt by confiding in people in a church setting–whether prayer meeting, small group, whatever–and then hearing what they confided coming back to them from someone else. You probably know of the same thing. Trust is “paramount”, as you say, and trust is such a delicate thing.

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