David did not only record the intricate details God provided for the building of the temple. He also wrote down his prayers and the book of Psalms is now invaluable to us as believers. Committed prayer is speaking to God and hearing from God, and it’s worth writing it down both to harness our focus and to remind ourselves of what we need to pray for or which prayers are answered and how.
“All this,” said David, “the Lord made me understand in writing, by His hand upon me, all the works of these plans.” (1 Chronicles 28:19)
As a writer, starting what is popularly called a prayer journal was relatively easy. It was also a blessing, because it worked to harness the ‘writer brain’ that is both a strength and an infuriating weakness. Before I learned to ‘take every thought captive to the obedience of the mind of Christ,’ my writer brain worked against me. All it needed was half a sentence, and it’d be out the starting gate. Within minutes, there were ten different possibilities of ‘what if,’ none of which were God focused. To train the brain, I decided to write things down. My imagination needed a bit and bridle and writing was my solution. It enabled me to committed prayer rather than self-indulgent prayer. It taught me, also, how God uses the simple act of writing things down to release revelation and understanding. I learned that committed prayer is two-way communication with God.
Committed prayer is speaking and listening.
Today’s verse, although not in so many words, defines committed prayer as both speaking and listening. We know that David spoke to God. His psalms contain some beautiful, honest prayers. But we see here that he also listened. If prayer time proves frustrating and unfulfilling, it’s likely due to the fact that we’re speaking rather than listening. When we start our Christian walk, we somehow have the idea that silence isn’t a good thing. As a result, we fall into the habit of long-winded prayer and even repetition. Frustration comes in because we inevitably feel our prayers have been effective. We cannot even say for sure that we believe God even heard them. One-way communication is always incomplete and dissatisfying. This is because it’s not relationship. It’s speaking to God rather than with God. Without a response, prayer is simply empty words and meaningless noise.
I often hear Christians complain that God never speaks to them. If this is so, then either they are not one of His people or the Bible isn’t true. The fundamental purpose of the cross was that we could come right into His presence, right to the throne of grace, and commune with God. The cross enables God to speak to His people and them to hear Him. So if we don’t hear from God, it’s because we’re not listening. We’re so distracted by the things we want or need to say that we don’t give Him a chance to speak. Or we’re in too much of a hurry that we aren’t prepared to wait. We want the answer now and we want the answer we expect. Anything else He might say is tuned out. Self-focus and impatience are the greatest obstacles to committed prayer.
Committed prayer requires single-minded focus.
This is where a prayer journal is so useful, because it harnesses the mind and prevents it rushing off at a tangent. The mind is another obstacle to committed prayer because it isn’t involved. We pray with our spirits, not our intellect. The mind is simply a tool that ‘converts’ what is in the Spirit into words. This is why the mind will do all it can to interfere. Committed prayer has God as the focus, even when bringing our needs or the needs of others. The mind wants self as the focus, and so has to be disciplined and brought under the control of the spirit. When we write things down, we force the mind to focus instead of hopping around wilfully. We compel it to look only at God instead of the gazillion and one other things rushing around in it.
When we give ourselves to committed prayer, we set self aside. We acknowledge God as Lord and sovereign. Our will is surrendered to His will, and we open ourselves to honesty and to receive from Him. Putting our prayers in writing makes us think. It brings things out into the open that we perhaps didn’t see before. We tend not to rush into things without thought but listen to what is in our hearts before we verbalise it. These things are possible because writing makes us slow down, for one thing. We don’t dash off a quick something and move on. It restores our focus to God and what we really want to say to Him. When we write, we are focused, and we discipline our mind and emotions to follow the leading of our spirit. It also gives the Spirit the opportunity to guide us as we pray.
Seeing the results of committed prayer.
In the beginning, I erred on the side of caution – the ‘word for word’ thing, which was time consuming and unnecessary. Now, I’ve learned the value of key words and short phrases. From the perspective of our talking to God, writing down enables us to see the results of committed prayer. It’s amazing, when I look back, to see how prayers are answered. A good habit is to actually add a note to the original with the outcome. This builds our faith and encourages us in prayer. We can see those things which required consistent and persistent prayer and those which received immediate answers. There is nothing more encouraging than being reminded of how and when God came through for us. While we may remember the ‘big things,’ the little often go unnoticed. It reminds us, too, of things we should pray for that ‘slipped’ off the list.
But writing down prayer has another valuable record we could easily miss – God talking to us. So often, we make our prayer notes without realising that God has slipped a little something in. A verse we needed, perhaps, or a deeper understanding. We can see how we started off praying for something one way, then find it changes. This is usually the Holy Spirit leading our prayer to align with God’s will. It’s not uncommon to pray for something and, after a moment of listening, continue to pray but with a stronger focus on a particular aspect of the problem. Again, that’s the Spirit – God speaking to us. Sometimes, things we pray about consistently suddenly take up most of our prayer time. That’s because that moment is the right moment to pray His will for the resolution of the problem. The other days were preparation.
Committed prayer and God’s purposes.
Most important in all our prayers is to learn to listen and to record the things God tells us. This blog is a perfect ‘for instance’ that is invaluable in my life. As I learn and grow, each truth and revelation I receive from Him is recorded and shared. Each post comes as a result of listening and recording what He is saying to me. At the same time, I have specific revelations and commands that I record that are His instructions to me alone. They are part of my personal journey and preparation, and I’m not unique. We all have things that God speaks directly to us regarding our purpose in His kingdom. These are things we pray through and hold onto, and which guide us daily. Committed prayer is the place for both the truth we share and the truth for our lives.
Like David, we all need to be absolutely sure that we know and understand God’s purposes for us. It is He who commands and us who obey. But we can all too easily get it wrong. God didn’t simply empower David to write down the requirements for the temple. One look at Psalms will confirm this. But if he hadn’t taken the time to write it all down, how would he have passed on the right instructions to Solomon? The Bible itself proves that God knows the value of the written word. It’s not so much the words as the power behind the words. When we take the time to record what we hear from God, we protect ourselves and others. We can test what we have heard, for one thing. It helps us to remember, but it also establishes it in us. In writing, it becomes real to us.
The desire for committed prayer.
God desires prayer so much that He gave His Son to make it possible. When we think of what Jesus endured, it should stir up in us a desire for committed prayer. This is the kind of prayer that is intimate communion, a time of speaking and listening, and of worship and love. It’s an exchange among two who are wholly committed to one another. Jesus said: If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7) This is a beautiful summary of the nature of committed prayer. David saw the value of recording his prayers and God’s commands. If God Himself saw the necessity to make His Word Logos – written – shouldn’t we have the same approach? Prayer is a gift of grace, too precious to be forgotten or left unrecorded.
Father, thank You for making it possible for us to draw near in faith and commune with You. Forgive us if we’ve had a casual attitude to this precious gift bought by Jesus on the cross. Stir up in us a desire to not only speak but to listen and to write it down so that we may share with others the blessings You release through prayer.