I’m always grateful for Dallas Willard’s insight that a relationship with God is interactive. We can think of prayer as conversation. Prayer is being with God. It involves listening and speaking. It is a dialogue.
A little practice that sometimes helps me enter into this reality is a "prayer as conversation" entry in my written journal. I’ll spend a few moments reading scripture, a few moments in prayer, or any other way of acknowledging and resting in the real presence of God. I don’t always feelGod close, but I trust and know that God is here.
I’ll then begin to share what’s on my heart and listen for what I think Jesus might say to me. I’m listening with a heart trained by the scriptures. I’m listening from years of conversational prayer. I seek to then write what I sense Jesus might say to my prayer in the moment. Below is a lightly edited example of a conversational prayer from my journal back when I was writing An Unhurried Leader.
Me: Thank you, Jesus, for a few good thoughts that came today when I was working on the Romans 8 chapter about “Questions.” But after just a bit, I got stuck and let distraction distract me.
Jesus: You know the answer to this one, Alan.
Me: I think you mean that I need to simply be in the moment but, honestly, I didn’t seem to know how to do it in that moment. The distractions seem so loud and so demanding.
Jesus: Your belief in the power of those distractions is your problem, son. Truly, they are no more powerful than a mist. But if you believe the mist is a wall, you will not try to walk through it.
Me: I think I understand, but you know how much of a struggle this is for me.
Jesus: Of course I do.
Me: I guess, with my chapter theme in mind, I’m wondering what question you would ask me.
Jesus: If I really am for you, which is one of those questions you will write about tomorrow, who (or what) could ever actually oppose you?
Me: The right answer to that question is no one (and nothing).
Jesus: That’s right. So can distraction oppose or hinder you?
Me: It can’t. It is one of the “whats” that can’t actually get in my way.
Jesus: What about anxiety? What if you feel strong anxiety? Are you actually helpless against that sort of feeling?
Me: The truth is that your peace is greater than any worry that might arise in my thoughts. If I remain in the moment—if I abide in you—I can remember and trust this reality.
Jesus: That’s right. And what about your feelings of self-doubt or insecurity? Are they reliable indicators of your actual value or confidence?
Me: No, they really aren’t. If I had as little value or reason for confidence as those feelings, I wouldn’t be writing another book. I sure wouldn’t be speaking in some of the settings into which I’ve been invited.
Jesus: Now what you need is obedience. You need to walk withme and stop letting those childish and juvenile impulses of yours make decisions for you. You’ve learned that, haven’t you?
Me: I have. I can see that I reduce my self-confidence when I do things I know aren’t good. I ruin my peace and raise self-doubts. These are only a few of the costs of my disobediences.
Jesus: That’s right. But if I’ve invited you to a life—an abundant life, mind you—of obedience, you need to trust that I know what I’m talking about. Your childish and youthful ideas and emotions don’t believe, but you do, don’t you Alan?
Me: I actually do trust that you know what you’re talking about. And I could actually live in keeping with what I believe as a man in my mid-fifties. I’m grateful that Your Spirit is at work to empower me in this way of life.
Jesus: And you already have my Spirit. You already have everything you need to really live and to do everything I’ve entrusted to you to do, including writing this book.
Me: Thank you for saying that. Help me remember this when I wake to write in the morning.
Jesus: Of course. And I’ll enjoy co-laboring with you as you write in the morning.
Me: Good night, Lord.
- When have you sought to enter into prayer as conversation? Has that felt meaningful, challenging, frustrating, what?
- If God were to speak in a very personal way with you, what tone of voice would expect? Would that tone be in keeping with the fruit of His Spirit—love, joy, peace?
- Why not try on this practice for 10 minutes. You aren’t claiming to have a pipeline to God in engaging this practice. You are simply seeking to be an attentive listener.
You Might Also Enjoy
- Blog: “The Importance of Listening to God.” An answer to some who would call "prayer as conversation" unbiblical. (Alan)
- Blog: “The Art of Listening.” Helpful teaching on how to be a better listener to others (Gem).
- Podcast: “Listening Well: Spiritual Direction [Beth Booram].” (Gem)