Prayer

Heart of the Matter: Live a Praying Life

October 11, 2013
Cynthia: This is Cynthia with Heart of the Matter radio, for women who want to obey God in a less than perfect world.
We have a personal God, and he wants us to pray. I love the passage in Ephesians 3:20, he is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us. But sometimes we struggle with prayer and we feel as if perhaps we’re ineffective.
Today I have Jennifer Kennedy Dean and she’s taught on prayer for 30 years, and she’s written Live A Praying Life. And so we’re going to have her talk to us a little bit about her ideas on prayer. Welcome, Jennifer.
Jennifer: It’s great to be with you.
Cynthia:  Jennifer, it’s very obvious that you are just zealous about prayer. Can you tell me how you got that way?
Jennifer: Obsessed is the word I tend to use. It’s not too strong a word. 
You know, Cynthia, at about the age of 20, when the Lord really got hold of my heart and got my attention, it occurred to me if what I believe is true we don’t just dabble in this. This is something where you just invest your life and you jump in all the way. At that point in my life it became so clear to me that prayer was going to be the answer to how to live that life with power and effect.
And so from that time to this I have just pursued what it means to pray. And way back then, way back then, in my bio it probably says thirty years, but by now it’s forty years. I’m going to be sixty in December. So for forty years the Lord has been working this into the fiber of my life.
What changed everything for me, I was looking for a formula, I was looking for how you’re supposed to say the words, what order should you put them in. What is going to make God do what I think he should do, when I think he should do it.
Cynthia, it was a fruitless pursuit. It always ended in failure and I felt that the failure was on my end. But one day the Lord began to whisper to my heart it’s not have a prayer life, it’s live a praying life. And it changed everything for me as I began to realize that prayer is not how we package words together between Dear God and amen. Prayer is not how we make God do what we think he should do. It is a living, constant, never-ending flow of his power and provision. It is a constant interchange between the heavenly realms and the realm of earth.
Cynthia: I like what you said about formulas. It’s a little more complicated than that. I notice in your book you talked about prayer being an ongoing relationship with God. Then you also talked about how prayer is also downloading or syncing your mind with God. And that almost seems like a contradiction. Can you explain that?
Jennifer: So first you have to understand that you’re not just praying when you’re saying sentences. Now, that’s part of it, articulating prayer, speaking prayer, that’s part of it. But it’s not the whole thing. 
And sometimes we think that prayer works like this. I think up what God should do, then I try to find the words that will talk him into doing it, and when I’m saying those words it’s prayer and God might answer it and he might not.
Prayer is an entirely different thing than that. And where I talk about syncing or synchronizing our hearts with the heart of the Father, when we understand that prayer is what God downloads into our hearts and it becomes our hearts and it begins to flow out from us through the speaking of prayer, but the key to prayer is not to get God’s heart to match mine. It’s to get my heart to match his.
When you begin to live a praying life, not just say prayers but walk in the power and provision of God, when you move from saying prayers to living in a prayerful flow, that doesn’t take away the need to spend daily, extended times just synchronizing your heart with the Father’s.
Cynthia: Now I have a question. Because if you go back in the Old Testament, Abraham was talking with the angels and probably one of them was Christ, about Sodom and Gomorrah, and there was some bargaining going on there. So how does that fit in? And God tolerated it. He didn’t tell him to stop, he didn’t say quit. So how does that fit in with your idea of prayer?
Jennifer: Was there really bargaining, or was the Lord really just allowing Abraham to ask all his questions? 
One thing about the Old Testament is that it’s telling the story how it looked from earth. So do you really think that when Abraham said if there are fifty righteous, did the Lord say well, okay, maybe if there are fifty righteous. Let me go count.
No. Here’s how it worked. God allowed Abraham to ask every question, and have the dialog with God exactly the way he needed to so that when he saw the hand of God he would have a deeper understanding of it. In that whole conversation what God was telling Abraham is now you know this. If there had been fifty righteous I would have saved the city. If there had been ten righteous I would have saved the city. 
But he allows Abraham to have that conversation. Abraham is not influencing God. God is not going back and forth, well maybe Abraham could be right, well maybe if I looked at it that way. You see what I’m saying? The conversation was not news to God. God wasn’t saying oh, wow, yeah, maybe so. He was allowing Abraham to get everything out on the table and have the understanding the way he needed to so when he saw the hand of God move he wouldn’t be saying to himself oh my gosh I wonder if there were fifty righteous if he would have saved.
Do you see what I’m saying?
Cynthia: I see what you’re saying. And you know, God is just. And he goes out of his way to show us he’s just and maybe that was part of what was happening in that conversation.
Jennifer: That’s it. Again, the conversations that we have with God are going to be at our level. God is not going to say I’m not going to tolerate a question like that. He’s going to deal with it at our level. 
But God is never going back and forth making a bargain. He is never doing that. He knew the heart and conversation with Abraham before it happened. He knew what the heart of Abraham needed to understand in order to be able to process this. 
The thing I see in that is that God lets Abraham have whatever conversation he needs to have. God isn’t editing us or grading us or saying don’t say it that way, or you’re offending me. God says come on, whatever, however you need to ask the question ask it.
Cynthia: But he tolerated it.
Jennifer: Absolutely, yeah.
Cynthia: And one of the ones that really impacts my life is Habakkuk, which particularly in these days right now. Because he came to God and he said you need to pay attention, things are not going well down here, and you’re not doing anything. I love that one because I feel that way so often.
Jennifer: Yes. Yes! The Scripture is filled with the way that God says it’s okay, whatever’s on your mind. And what happens is when we start by pouring our honest heart, he says pour out your heart like water before the Lord. Just pour it out. 
What happens is when we begin to pour our hearts out in honesty, without any pretense, without thinking that we have to impress God or have some rules to follow, just lay it out there, you find that your heart begins to change. As you pour out he pours in.
Sometimes people will make this point about prayer a
nd they’ll say stop talking so God can talk. I do get the point because it is more important what God is saying than what you’re saying, but here’s how it just happens sometimes. Talk away, and as you talk the Lord begins to change the content of your words. As you speak to him new thoughts begin to come from your mouth or come from your mind. And sometimes the listening is in the talking.
Cynthia: I agree with that. 
Jennifer: For some reason lately I’ve gotten this question even more, that feel oh I feel so guilty, I feel like I don’t do it right because I talk. Well, that’s okay. God can interrupt you, and in the course of your talking, in the course of your speaking to him, he is speaking to you and drawing new thoughts into your mind and words out of your mouth.
Cynthia: One thing that has always frustrated me is that I love to pray, but these people that you read in history that prayed for all night prayer meeting, and I sit down and I start to pray and I get two sentences out and then I stop and I go my mind is blank. How did they do this all night thing?
And then it finally occurred to me. You know, you’re going to think in sentences. That’s the way God made us. You think in sentences and you get the two sentences out and if it takes a minute to think of another one then God’s not going to sit up there and get mad. You’re okay.
Jennifer: Yes. Exactly! You’re never being graded on prayer. When you begin to get into the principles of live a praying life you get that you are praying all the time. Even when you’re not saying your thoughts into sentences. Prayer is rising to the heavens, God is hearing it exactly as if you had spoken it perfectly. You are always praying. 
The forming of prayer into sentences is more for you than God. It’s an important part of the whole prayer experience, but it’s not the only part. So if one morning you have lots of sentences flowing from your mind and heart and mouth during that time of focused prayer, and then the next morning you have two, you didn’t get it better one morning than another. 
There are other things to do during those times set aside for prayer than speak sentences at God. Sometimes that prayer time is just praise and sometimes you’re just in the Word and the Lord is awakening new thoughts. And sometimes it’s juts there are lots of different things to be doing during that focused prayer time than saying sentences.
Cynthia: Yes. And I am not someone who is extremely loquacious. I condense it into a sentence, it might take somebody else a paragraph to get the same thought out. But I’m going to pray, I said it, and then I go well, maybe I should say it again. The Psalmist repeats himself, so if I feel it strongly I guess I could say it again.
But there’s not a yes or no, because God just so wants us to be there at his feet and pour out our heart.
Jennifer: That’s right. 
There are different personalities. My son would call you an efficient talker. There are different personalities. Some people elaborate, that’s how they express themselves. Some people say it succinctly. There are different personalities, therefore there are different ways to pray. There’s no one right way.
Cynthia: You said something in your book about how sometimes emotions hold you in bondage, and that one really connected with me. Because sometimes I get to prayer and I’m just so upset I can’t get anything out. And you use the verse be still and know that I am God. Can you elaborate on that just a little bit?
Jennifer: We are not to be ruled by our emotions. They’re fine that you have them, but they don’t have to be the ruler. And so sometimes we’re in a state of emotions where we can’t get it into words or we can’t get off that certain mark, and the Lord says just be still. You are always in the presence of God. That’s not something that comes and goes, because his presence inhabits you.
But sometimes you are more intentionally and aware of the presence. God is so faithful when you just stop and draw yourself aside to be in his presence. He will meet you there. It’s not magic. It might not be instant, it might take some time to unloop all those emotions that are going on, but there will be a peace that he will provide that the Scripture says is past your understanding. It’s just a gift, here’s the gift of my peace. And it’s amazing to me how that comes.
Cynthia: Sometimes you sense him. I’ve been praying at times and I can almost feel him almost leaning over going okay, I’m listening, keep going because I’m listening. But other times, and usually those are times when I’m going through a lot of really hard trials, very dark times, I feel nothing. And I go okay, I’m talking. The connection’s still okay.
Jennifer: Yes. Don’t measure by, again, the feeling or the emotion or the experience. Just know that God is present as he says he is present. There’s not a word you form, there’s not a sigh you release, there is not even those unformed thoughts, that are so deep in you that they haven’t come to that place of your brain that puts words together. God has already heard those.
And remember that he’s not a deity far away. Like there’s not a big gap you have to get over. Because Jesus closed that gap. And when we enter into that relationship with him, Jesus in the form of his Spirit, comes to indwell us. So when people say to me you know, I don’t even feel like my prayers get past the ceiling, I say they don’t have to get that far. Because he’s right there.
And the very fact that you are turning in his direction, that is him pulling you in his direction.
Cynthia: There is one story I can tell. When my husband was very ill, he had encephalitis and he was just so sick that I didn’t know whether he was going to live or whether he was going to be disabled if he did live. And I had stayed with him for days, and I remember one day I had just gotten through reading in Acts 17 about how God is always there with us and he’s listening all the time. And I remember just putting my Bible down and going I would love to have some flowers.
It wasn’t two minutes until someone knocked on my door and brought me two dozen roses. And I thought oh my goodness, you heard that prayer before I said it.
Jennifer: Isn’t that precious?
Cynthia: I mean it was like he had to do some planning there. You know?
Jennifer: That’s right. Yes. Okay, I’m getting tripped over my tongue I’m so excited about that, about this concept that you’re bringing up right now.
Before you called he had already heard. And has put the preparation in advance. Those things that come into your life, even as just a desire like you’re expressing right now, or a need, God saw them, knew them, and even planted those desires in your heart before you spoke the words.
The things about prayer is that it is a cooperative effort with God. It’s not you think up stuff and try to get God to do it. It is a cooperative effort with God. God begins to place things in your mind and heart, and they feel, most of the time, they just feel like your own idea. They just feel like our own expression of desire. But they’ve been placed there by God, he’s already done the preparation, and it’s our prayer, our dependence on him, that releases into our lives everything heaven has in store.
Cynthia: And that was one of those times that I was just, I couldn’t even sit still for awhile because I thought he cares. And I needed it r
ight then, because life was so dark. I didn’t know what my future held because I didn’t know if my husband was going to live or die and it was scary.
What about a prayer list? I noticed that you don’t like those.
Jennifer: I just encourage people not to have a prayer list prayer life. Now here’s what I mean by that. A lot of times we use our prayer list as a to-do list from God, or we use it as a measuring stick for how well prayer is working. God answered this prayer, he didn’t answer that prayer, or he answered this prayer. It begins to draw us off course.
If you use your prayer list as here’s the day that I release this to God in prayer, and you didn’t tell him what to do and you didn’t tell him when to do it and you didn’t tell him how it had to turn out, you said let your will be done, let your kingdom come right here, and then you just watch what he does. I think that many of your listeners, 
Cynthia, are going to be in this category. They’re going to have this experience because it’s common. This is where I started out, this is what God untangled for me. They’re going to have this experience. Here are all the things I told God to do and he didn’t do, I can’t be sure that prayer is going to work because I have a long list of times that it didn’t.
So if you have a prayer list prayer life that’s how you’re going to feel about prayer. But if you begin to learn how to live a praying life, and the Scripture that you started the program with, God is going to do exceedingly, abundantly more than you can ask or imagine.
So if you’re looking for a formula that will get God to do what you can ask and imagine, you will be cheating yourself. God is doing something bigger. And when we have our vision or our viewpoint so narrowed down to what we think ought to happen, we miss what God is doing. And he is never doing less. He is always doing more.
Cynthia: What about when you ask for prayer in Sunday school or a church group, and you get so many prayer requests for people who are ill. And I believe that during illness there’s probably more spiritual danger probably than any other time just because of that you don’t feel well and it’s hard to have faith. How do you pray for people like that? What do you do? Because we need to be warm there, to that person who was asking that request.
Jennifer: On my website, www.prayinglife.org, there’s a whole bunch of free articles, and one of them is about prayer for healing. But let me give you a snapshot of how I feel about prayer for healing.
When we pray for healing God always says yes. What form that yes takes is up to God. And when we, just like we were talking about a minute ago, when we have just narrowly defined how yes must look, then we’ll sometimes think he said no. But God has many ways to say yes to healing, and one of those ways is eternal healing.
I lost my husband eight years ago to brain cancer, and I certainly wanted my yes to be a restoration of his body and his physical presence in my life. But I know that because of prayer, because it’s not like where you got it wrong, you didn’t have enough faith, like God is tricky like that, that’s what that says. Here’s what I know. When my husband, the very minute he breathed his last breath, that is the last breath ever appointed to him. If one more day on earth would be better, prayer would have accomplished that. 
It doesn’t take away grief. Grief is difficult and hard and I’m just now coming out of it. But the grief is for me. The grief is not for him. And I don’t have to wrestle with did I pray right, why didn’t God do what I told him to do. God said yes to my prayer for healing and it was an eternal yes on the day appointed. The Scripture says it is appointed unto a man once to die.
So prayers for healing, there are many many ways that God can answer them with a yes that we might interpret as a no. And I know that’s a much bigger question, so go to the website and get the paper.
But you just pray for healing. You don’t have to make excuses for God. It’s just that don’t define what healing looks like.
Cynthia: Right. Because in the ultimate sense we’re safe anyway, regardless of what happens, because we have God for eternity and we belong to him. I want people to ask that, because I know that with all of that comes the anxiety and the fear and just the tension that they feel.
So yes, I do want them to go beyond that. Because we need to pray for bigger things. But a major illness creates a lot of problems in the family. And so I want to have the compassion to be able to say yes, I will keep you in my prayers, but I pray for just ultimate strength through that because God can teach through that.
Jennifer: Yes. And God has a bigger agenda that he’s working out. He’s working out all kinds of things. So I love to pray for healing. I’m going to get a yes when I pray for healing. I don’t know what that yes is going to look like, but I know I’m going to get a yes.
Cynthia: Right. 
Today, our world is coming to pieces. And I know that you said in your book that prayer is a proactive, in a sense an invasive action. How should we pray during this time when the world is changing so rapidly and becoming so dangerous?
Jennifer: First of all, take confidence as you watch what’s happening in the world. God told us this is what’s going to happen in the world. Didn’t he? So it’s not a surprise to him, and he’s not out of control. He said here’s how it’s going to be at the end. And it’s exactly like he said.
What I think we can get tangled up in right now is praying our political opinions, or praying our opinions of what should happen. And God is working out certain bigger agendas than we can see. So we just continue to pray for our leaders. We continue to pray for everything that the Lord brings to your mind and heart to bring to him, but we do not have to give him instructions about how to handle it. That is the freedom of live a praying a life.
Sometimes people say I can’t pray about that because I don’t know what to pray. Which means I don’t know how to tell God to handle it. But when you begin to learn what it means to pray let your kingdom come, let your kingdom come right here, let your kingdom come right now, let your kingdom come in this situation, when Jesus taught that piece of his model prayer he was not talking about a day in the future when the physical kingdom of God would be established on the earth again. That’s coming, but he was saying in every given circumstance prayer will move all of heaven’s resources into the circumstances of earth and the kingdom of God will take effect here.
It doesn’t mean when the power and provision of God begins to operate in any given circumstance, it doesn’t mean it’s going to look like you thought it would. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to clean up the way you wanted it to. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be obvious what the power and provision of God is doing. But you can know that God says through the prayers of my people the power of heaven will operate in the circumstances of earth.
And he is using, as he has throughout history, the Scripture gives a long history that God uses the wrong decisions, the sins, everything that man does, God uses to bring about his ultimate purpose. And because he told us in advance this is what these days would look like,you can be assured that he is working s
omething out.
Cynthia: I like to tell myself that we do win in the end.
Jennifer: Absolutely.
Cynthia: And that God put me here, in this century, in this era, and that he has a job for me regardless of what’s going on around me. I’m here. And so I just pray and hang on.
Jennifer: That’s good. Pray and hang on. That’s exactly right. Just be. Just be where God put you, who God made you to be. That is strategic in his plan. Just be.
Cynthia: I have enjoyed this so much. Tell us where we can find you and where we can find your book.
Jennifer: Yes. Come on by my website,

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