When you hear the word “prayer,” what do you think? Maybe you think of talking to God to praise Him, thank Him, confess sins, or bring Him requests. The Lord’s prayer may come to mind, or the ACTS prayer model, or some other childhood formula. Or maybe your first thought is how your prayer life is lacking. Lack of prayer or a weak prayer life is a modern Christian endemic.
Something is wrong.
All the prayer models we have are sorely lacking. Heavily one-sided, today’s patterns of prayer have lost power. But there are two forms of unpopular prayer that can rescue us from our prayerless rut because they put God in His rightful place.
Pouring Out Prayer:
“While she continued praying in the Lord’s presence, Eli watched her lips. Hannah was praying silently, and though her lips were moving, her voice could not be heard. Eli thought she was drunk… ‘No, my lord,’ Hannah replied. ‘I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord. Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.’ Eli responded, ‘Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant the petition you’ve requested from Him.’ ‘May your servant find favor with you,’ she replied. Then Hannah went on her way; she ate and no longer looked despondent.” (1 Samuel 1:12-13, 15-18 HCSB)
Hannah had been praying from the depth of her anguish and resentment. What do you do with the depths of your anguish and resentment? Where do you run? Chocolate, friends, television… all of these may comfort for the moment, but they end up only covering up the aches of your heart that will not be ignored. There is only one place where you are allowed to pour out the depths of your anguished heart until it is empty of anguish and can be filled with peace, where you can rage in resentment and shed your bitter tears until the bitterness is gone and a heart longing for healing is bared. Only on your knees in the presence of your Savior can you pour yourself out and be heard, healed, and given a new heart of rest and joy.
When your heart aches and your spirit is shaken, God desires you to come and be honest before Him. He will patiently listen and receive all that you pour into His hands. And He will bear your burden, letting you taste the lightness of spirit that comes when you have given Him everything and leaned on Him for support.
The next kind of prayer flows easily from this one and ought to be practiced together with it.
“Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him; do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way, by the man who carries out evil plans.” (Psalms 37:7 HCSB)
Whatever the agitation in your soul that you just poured before the feet of Jesus, it’s time to commit your way to the Lord, be silent, and let Him act. Now, I know this isn’t easy. I love to talk. Especially when I am agitated, all I want to do is keep rehashing my problems. But prayer is supposed to be communion with Jesus. It’s talking to Him, and it’s listening to Him. Because no matter how much we speak, until we listen, we will find no wisdom, for wisdom is not found in many words. It’s found in the person of Christ. Peace is not found in just getting our burdens off but also putting on His yoke.
A while ago there was a lot on my mind. I was doing morning devotion and read Psalm 37:7. It convicted me, so I hit my knees and laid my problems out before God. And then I fell silent. I quieted myself down and asked God to speak. It scared me. What if I got distracted and this was a big waste of time? What if God stayed silent and wouldn’t respond to me? But I discarded those fears and when my mind started to stray, I called on the name of Jesus and listened. And a wonderful thing happened: song lyrics and Bible verses that settled my heart came to mind. God showed up, and He answered me with peace. I’ve never experienced more fulfilling prayer than that. To give to God and then receive from Him. It’s healing.
So I encourage you, take these two types of unpopular prayer to heart and to Jesus. Let them change the way you pray.