You probably remember the days of door-to-door salesmen, those gentlemen who used to ring your doorbell at 2 p.m. trying to sell you the latest and greatest product you just had to buy. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard from husbands who came home after work only to be surprised by their wife’s new purchase!
You know, if you think about it, we often try to become door-to-door salesmen when it comes to prayer. There have been times in my life when I’ve tried to convince God as I prayed that He needed to give this or give me that. I have at times found myself praying as if God didn’t have all His facts straight and I just needed to make Him see things my way!
Yes, we often try to sell God on what we are praying for rather than just listening to Him.
Instead of treating prayer as a sales pitch to God, what if you thought of it as a conversation with Him? That would change everything! When Virginia and I are considering a major decision, I don’t try to sell her on the idea to get my way. No, we talk about the decision and come to a mutual understanding about what’s best for us.
This is exactly the idea that Jesus had in mind when He taught us about prayer in Matthew 6:6-8:
“But 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.”
You see? God doesn’t want us to “babble” a sales pitch to Him about what we think we need. No, He wants to talk to us… to have a conversation with us. Yes, He wants us to bring our requests to Him. But through prayer, He also invites us to discover His perfect will for us by listening. That takes so much pressure off when it comes to prayer!
And when properly utilized, prayer can be very dangerous… in a good way! When we pray more like a conversation than a sales pitch, our desires become aligned with God’s… which makes us a powerful instrument for Him in this world.
I love how John Piper puts it: “Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church…. We try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den” (Let the Nations be Glad).
When you begin to not just talk to God, but really listen to Him, you will mobilize resources more powerful than you could imagine! And you will be used in amazing ways to advance the Kingdom of God wherever you are.
So how can you begin today to move from a small, domesticated prayer life to a vibrant conversation with God? Well, Jesus couldn’t have been clearer in Matthew 6: go in your room, shut your door, and don’t just talk, but listen. Now your bedroom may not be the best place for you, but get somewhere quiet. This may mean taking a walk outside or praying while you are riding in a car. But find a place without any distractions, and ask God to speak to you.
Just say, “Lord, I want to hear from You now. Help me to understand Your perfect will for me. I’m ready to listen.” And then listen. When you begin your prayers ready and willing to hear from God, you will be astonished at what He will say!