Inner prayer

I recently taught a seminar for our church on the prayers of scripture and how to have a vibrant prayer life (notes here). The sobering truth is that often mine isn’t. It’s not that I don’t know how. The fault lies entirely with me, not with God.

I’ve been reflecting more on prayer lately, even seeking to be more diligent to pray for ministry friends. I can’t overlook the reality that the vast majority of my prayers continue to be inner prayers. Simply put, my prayers are consumed with my internal world.

prayerIt’s amazing to me how much activity happens just in my mind and heart! As I struggle daily to surrender my will to God’s in loving obedience and real choices, I could spend all my prayer energies consumed with my own mental and spiritual issues. Yet, God is abundantly active and powerfully moving out there. Away from me – in other’s lives. In our world.

I suspect that you feel the same? An internal preoccupation in prayer seems to drag our heads down, like our noses have a fish hook in them, with the fishing line tied to a stake on the ground below us. We dare not lift our head up for fear of the pain it would cause. So we stay buried in inner prayers.

The reality is that God knows our need for our praying for ourself. The Psalms are full of inner prayers. Consider:

I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah
You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
(Psalm 77:1-6)

I’m grateful that the Father invites our inner prayers. However, I want to not stay inner but be diligent to pray for others, for our world, and most significantly, for God’s glory.

To think that God can actively hear (and listen to) all our inner prayers is astonishing. Who can think like the Lord or even scratch the surface of His works?! If I spent my hours attempting to record, catalog, file, describe and journal all that the Father is doing, I’d quickly run out of things to write for four simple reasons:

  1. I cannot see beyond my own sphere.
  2. I cannot interpret what He is doing.
  3. I can only see that things are happening.
  4. I do not know other’s thoughts/prayers and how God is working in them.

I can’t write it all down because I have limited observational skills, and I am finite. Plus, the world doesn’t have enough ink.

Even more incredible, God delights to use the ordinary to accomplish wonders. Random, routine conversations so often are used by Him to prick a heart, to speak encouragement, to change a mind. Even with music, who could ever track how God speaks to hearts, penetrating close-mindedness or stubbornness with a melody?

It all reminds me of the scene from Bruce Almighty where Jim Carrey is suddenly privy to everyone’s prayers and is driven crazy. To hear is one thing, to hear and to know the pray-er and see past, present and future is mind-boggling. God doesn’t just hear the prayer, know the pray-er, understand the context, but He also has a plan. His plan includes love for the pray-er and the redemption of the universe, and He is able to answer in a way that glorifies His Name and blesses the pray-er and the world.

How God does this is beyond us. God is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient: all-powerful, all-present, all-knowing.

I’m so thankful that God hears my inner prayers. I want Him to hear more from me. I also am eager to grow in my outer prayers.

In Mark 11.17, Jesus confronts the Jewish religious leaders about how inner their prayers were. In essence, these leaders were focused on themselves. Jesus said:

“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?

I think it’s obvious that Jesus wanted the temple to be open to people from all nations, to come and pray and seek God. However, I also think that Jesus wanted the prayers of His people to be for all the nations. That’s outer prayer.

Let’s pray.

On this day...

2 comments

  1. Vanessa T says:
    Psalm 77:1-6 perfectly described my inner anguish the month leading up to my coming to know Jesus as my Savior. I hated how it felt, but am so very grateful for that time as it drew me to Him. As difficult as times of despair and turmoil are, I long for the vibrant prayer life I had at that times, even occasionally praying for God to use whatever means needed to bring me to it. One of the scariest prayers I pray, yet one of the most important as I relinquish control. I stumble along the line of inner and outer prayers, guessing and second-guessing my motives for both. At times, I am glad- or scared- that God knows my true heart because many times, I truly don’t know myself.

    As for focusing too much inwardly, I am so guilty of this. I greatly appreciate group prayer time, even with only one other person, because it enlightens me to what is on the hearts and minds of others. I pray more outwardly as thoughts and moments come up, but rarely do I take a chunk of time to pray for the nations, etc.

    Thank you for teaching about prayer for the Saturday Seminary- it was incredibly helpful and insightful for me personally!
    Vanessa T´s last blog post ..The Mysterious Fourth Toothbrush

  2. Phillip Slaughter says:
    God has moved me to pray more in the past few months than ever before. The fruit has been amazing and beyond what I ever imagined. However, I still find myself neglecting prayer daily. I recently memorized the following verse to help combat this, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (‭1 Peter‬ ‭4‬:‭7‬ ESV).

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