By Alvin VanderGriend
Human beings are created to live in fellowship with God. We are meant to have and to enjoy life in relationship with God. Psalm 16:11 tells us that “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Without this relationship we are like branches cut off from a tree, like toasters not plugged in.
Prayer is the way we get in touch with God and the way we keep in touch with him. I used to think of prayer as a spiritual exercise, a discipline that had to be worked at. Through the years, however, God has taught me to see it more and more as the talking part of a friendship. One of the early church fathers called it “keeping company with God.” I like that!
Several years ago as I tried to define prayer, God led me through a series of steps. At first I thought of prayer simply as talking with God. Then, the idea of relationship emerged, and I began to see that prayer is the talking part of a relationship with God. Months later my definition changed again, and I began to understand that prayer is the talking part of a love relationship with God. But there was still more I had to learn. I came to see that prayer was the talking part of the most important love relationship in our lives. With that addition I thought that I finally had it, but some years later God added on more element. Then the definition, a definition that I still live with today, came out as: “prayer is the conversational part of the most important love relationship in our lives, our love relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Sometimes people ask how much time they should try to spend in prayer each day. I used to suggest that 20 minutes of formal prayer a day was a minimum. I reinforced that by reminding them of the many things that need to be included in a prayer, and then I added that 20 minutes a day was only about 2 percent of our waking hours each day.
Now when people ask about the time they should spend in prayer, I simply tell them they should spend enough time to build a good relationship. And, considering that the relationship we are talking about is life’s most important love relationship, that means plenty of time.
What does God do for those who relate to him in love? The psalmist put it well when he said, “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
What’s the good of prayer? Just this! It helps us to grow into and live out of that most important of all love relationships. But of course, it’s only as good as we make it. So, what good are you making of it?
- What can your prayer life tell you about your love relationship with God?
- What more could you do to deepen your friendship with God?
- Praise God for his love and for his readiness to have a love relationship with you.
- Ask God to strengthen your prayer life and deepen your relationship with him.
- Ask God to fill you with joy in his presence and to give you eternal pleasures at his right hand.
- Thank God for his generosity in making these gifts available.
Intentionally set aside some time to spend with God. Do some relationship-building things with him during that time. Write down the three most important things that you got out of your time with God.
Alvin VanderGriend is a prolific writer on the subject of prayer. His best-known, best-selling book is Love to Pray, from which this article is adapted. We highly recommend Love to Pray, a 40-day prayer devotional to you and your friends. It will move you from feeling like prayer is a duty, to it being a delight.