Pray is so serious we need to know the value of play and experimentation to learn it well.
We’re talking this month about upgrading our prayer life. And as part of that, we’re also looking at the importance of curiosity and childlike exploration, like together with the Holy Ghost, not getting so hung up on ourselves or so big for our boots that we fail to understand that there is room for play in what we do in prayer. It really is that powerful if we will allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and teach us through experimentation and exploration. And I do believe that is very much a part not just of the early years, but God always wants to lead us forward, always wants to take us further. And really the only way to learn to pray is to pray. Not boring prayers, not same old, same old prayers, not just repeating the same mantras like day after day after day, add infinite but heartfelt fervent, whole being prayers that really grip your inner man. Engaging with the Holy Spirit will lead you to express your inner man in ways that sometimes maybe feels unnatural or unfamiliar to you. Your flesh will kick against God’s ways because they don’t always fit with what’s usually comfortable or familiar.
And that’s why it’s important, I think, to learn the importance of play, to experiment and to joyfully explore fresh expressions of Grace that will arise from your heart, naturally or supernaturally, if you like. As you work with the Holy Spirit, instead of getting hung up on the rights and wrongs, we just jump into the sandbox and have some fun. We go places that we wouldn’t normally go, secure in the knowledge that the Holy Ghost is there to train us. God has given the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, and really growing and expanding our palate of prayer is something that he wants to do. The more tools we can have in our hand, the more effective we can be when we engage in those real needs that sometimes present themselves. The problem is sometimes we come to those needs, and we’ve never actually learned to shoot our arrows, if you like. We’ve never been down on the firing range, like learning how to work in prayer. And that’s why I stress this idea of play, stress this idea of kind of joyful discovery, because we can do and grow and become much better prayers that way.
So when the real deal lands on the table, we’re not kind of scrambling for what to do or how to work with the Holy Spirit to resolve those things. And it’s actually sometimes the most uncomfortable and unfamiliar expressions of devotion that crack open the most fresh revelations and breakthroughs for us. And so in that if you’re a naturally noisy person, maybe you need to learn and intentionally come in and explore the beauty of silence. And then, of course, the naturally quiet people often need to let that inner lion roar. They need to break out of that self consciousness or that kind of nervous quietness that sometimes may invade the prayer closet and just let rip. Each expression becomes another tool that we can use when the time is right, times when it really matters. And becoming familiar with the tools and technologies that God has equipped us with in prayer through intentional experimentation is how we grow comfortable and gain insight and skill. So we are ready when the time comes for actual spiritual engagement. And so I’m just going to talk about a couple of playful experiments today, and we’ll continue this as we go forward.
There are all sorts of different experiments and playful explorations that we can make, but these are two very, very obvious ones, and yet they are ones that sometimes we shy away from into our comfort zone. Number one, get loud if you are generally very quiet, if you’re a reserved prayer, I urge you to find somewhere appropriate and get loud. And when I say loud, I mean really loud. Shout, cry, bellow, do whatever is necessary to break off that exterior and really tear open that inner man and just Lee that lion roar. Scripture even says of Jesus that he often prayed with strong crying. These aren’t polite, politically correct prayers designed to upset no one and cause no ripples. They were a storm of passionate faith unleashed from his heart. Hebrews 5:7 reads, who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him who was able to save him from death, was heard in that he feared. Now, the picture here is not of like something polite. It’s not of something that feels safe necessarily. It is very much the tearing open of the inner man in the presence of God and human flesh by nature is by nature really quite timid and fearful.
Often it whoops and hollers at a sports game, but simmers to an icy chill in the prayer meeting. I mean, how often does that happen? Strong men, like wild women, somehow get into the prayer meeting and turn into these kind of very reserved, nice, quiet people. What is going on there? Crush that tendency to polite, praying and wholeheartedly engaged in this thunderous experiment. Exodus 15:3 says, The Lord is a man of war. And then again in Isaiah we read, The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man. He will stir up jealousy like a man of war. He will cry, yes, raw, and he will prevail against his enemies. Sometimes there will come circumstances. The devil will unleash something in your life that requires you to cry and roar in order to prevail. And it’s good if we’ve experimented, if we’ve gone into the sandbox, played with the Holy Ghost, enjoyed his presence and allowed him to teach and train us in this. It’s important, you know, and, you know, there is a time for this ferocious nature to be expressed. And then secondly, so we’ve looked at get loud. And there’s a lot more I could say about that and the benefits of it, really.
I’ve discovered so much in this place of really not caring what anyone else would think and just giving vent to that inner well, letting those Rivers flow. But what we want to do next is get quiet. Maybe that you are naturally quite loud, and the idea of just shouting and hollering is not so frightening to you is surprisingly, the most frightening thing might be for you to simmer down and get quiet. And in the same way that scripture encourages loudness, it also leads us by still waters of solitude and silence. The spectrum of expression in prayer that we are encouraged to engage in is so broad and so beautiful. We’re all familiar with the scripture, be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46 Ten Taking time in the flurry of daily life to dissimilar down and for the inner life to settle into quietness will carry you to places that really no amount of activity can take you. It’s easy to fall into the nervous trap of always thinking something has to be said. In our modern times more than ever, I believe it’s like those moments, those in between moments make us feel very uncomfortable.
We’re always reaching for a device. We’ve always got some noise that our ears are being subjected to or our eyes have been subjected to, and our flesh can crawl at the thought of solitude. But silence, silence forces introspection, and a natural man prefers to keep things on the surface. And so in this experiment, I encourage you to set time aside, significant enough time to get through the discomfort you might feel and simply be before God. For me, a real key here has been not to wrestle my mind, but just to let thoughts come and go. Sometimes we can try and harness our mind and make it calm down, make it, in a sense, stop thinking about a multitude of different things. And this is where having significant time to stop and to simmer down and to quiet yourself before God is important. Because we live in such tumultuous times and we’re often engaged in so much activity, it takes time for all of that sediment to drift to the bottom, if you like, and for the waters to be still again within our heart. So just don’t wrestle. Just let the thoughts come and go.
The key to silent delight is not to fight, not to strain. Effort often disturbs the waters up and makes the murky again. But as time passes, the kicking and screaming of your fleshly mind will subside, and a peace that passes understanding will take its place. And in this place of silence, in this place of stillness, God can speak to your heart really clearly.
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