Prayer, Listening and Finding Intimacy with God
"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."
- A.W. Tozer
How is it that we find prayer so difficult? For most of my life I vacillated between seeing prayer as a dutiful obligation (feeling guilty when I wasn't doing my part) to a welcome respite from a world that was too much to bear at times. It has only been in the later stages of my life that I have come to see prayer as the singularly most significant avenue to experiencing the intimacy of knowing God, and being known by God. It is also where I will find the healing and change I desperately desire. Prayer, quite simply, is a conversation with the One we love and who loves us.
God desires our hearts and full attention. The Scriptures often refer to God's pursuit of us as a lover to a wayward spouse. In prayer we open ourselves to listening to His voice, being directed by His thoughts and being touched by His love. Prayer then is the avenue in which we are transformed. In prayer we begin to think God's thoughts, to desire what He desires, to love the things He loves. If we are unwilling to change, we will usually find that we quickly abandon the discipline of prayer.
As some conversations may be more of a monologue than a dialogue, so in our communion with God we may rush into His presence talking at Him rather than with Him. The key element in prayer is listening with the heart and mind. Henri Nouwen explains, "If prayer were just an intelligent exercise of our mind we would soon become stranded in fruitless and trivial inner debates with God. If, on the other hand, prayer would involve only our heart, we might soon think that good prayers consist in good feelings. But the prayer of the heart in the most profound sense unites mind and heart in the intimacy of the divine love." (Reaching Out, p. 146) In prayer there is a tender balance between listening and speaking.
But what keeps us from entering into this place of intimacy with our Creator?