Prayer has always been the hardest part of the Christian life for me. It’s always been me spurting out whatever is on my heart and hoping that when I read the scriptures God would speak to those situations.
I could never find a good rhythm of this because I found myself praying about the same things each day with seemingly no response from God. Searching the scriptures would only leave me dissatisfied because it didn’t seem like He was speaking to any of my concerns.
I would often feel like God wasn’t listening, or that I was simply talking to the walls around me, and quit about five minutes after I started.
Prayer was frustrating for me, to say the least.
I can imagine you might share a common story with prayer. You try, you develop lists, set out times to pray, and go for it, only to find yourself struggling each time you pray.
Do you know why we struggle like that? Because prayer is transactional to us, not transformational.
Transactional vs. Transformational
Transactional prayer is just like transactional conversation or a business transaction. It involves one party doing or saying something, which merits a response from the other party. It’s the, “I’ll do something for you and you do something for me,” type of life.
This type of prayer shows itself in how I described my prayer life earlier. After unloading 5-10 minutes of concerns I would expect God to respond with 5-10 minutes of answers.
I don’t want to put God in a box because I certainly believe He can work that way, I’m just not sure that type of prayer is His desire for us, though.
I think He desires transformational prayer. Transformational prayer uses conversational language – that in-between language that’s found in small talk or a deep conversation between two people with an intimate relationship. It’s the type of language we’ve been using when we say, “wait, how did we get on this topic?”
It’s fluid, it’s conversational, it’s transformative.
Names Are Important
For the longest, I have began my prayers with, “God….” and just kept rollin’. This makes sense because we’re talking to God, of course, but is that name specific enough?
We must realize that when we’re in prayer with God we’re talking with the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three in one. They all share the same essence, they all have distinct roles which compliment one another with perfection.
These three have been around forever, there was never a time when they were not and there will never be a time when they are not.
When we’re dealing with God, we’re dealing with all three of them. Why is this important? Because knowing their names and what they do is vital to our prayer life.
This is the way I see it throughout scripture:
- The Father Commands
- The Son Does
- The Holy Spirit Empowers
This is a thought that is still developing in my mind as I pray and read the scriptures, but I feel confident enough to move forward with those three distinct roles.
Name & Role Specific Prayer
I can’t begin to count the amount of times I have started a prayer with, “Father, help me to __________.” In fact, I’m sure several of us have done this. If you’re like me, you end up never getting the help you have requested which only leaves you frustrated with yourself and with God.
What if that prayer shouldn’t be prayed to the Father? Jesus did not say that He would send the Father to be our Helper, He said He would send the Holy Spirit to be our Helper.
I can imagine the Father looking at me saying, “Don’t look at me, I’m commanding you to move beyond that sin! Ask the Holy Spirit who is your helper and with you always!”
I think an example of name & role specific prayer would be this:
Father, what are you commanding of me today? What do you desire from my life today?
Jesus, how did you remain obedient when you didn’t want to? What scripture did you use remind yourself to stay faithful when you were growing weary?
Holy Spirit, let me hear your voice clearly. How do I obey what the Father has commanded today?
Those prayers can be prayed in any situation and they are specific and personal to each member of the Trinity and their roles.
The real question then becomes, how does this become transformational? How do we not fall back into using transactional language?
I imagine myself pulling up a seat at the Trinity table. A four sided table with myself, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They share the same heart beat, yet manifest in three different ways.
I ask the Father a question, He responds by pushing my attention towards the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reminds me that He and Jesus experienced the same type of situation while Jesus was on Earth. Then Jesus shares His side of the story and how He really felt.
I see the Trinity laughing and crying together. The Trinity is having real conversations, real dialogue about their people in this world and what they are trying to do with us.
In fact, one time I asked the Trinity, “Do ya’ll just stay heartbroken?” This was during the Christchurch attacks, Mozambique flooding, and Venezuelan power outages. His response? “Yes, but we don’t mourn like the world mourns, we mourn with hope. Hope that because of His (as He pointed to Jesus) obedience, all things will be made right again.”
Transformational prayer begins with the Trinity inviting us into their presence. The Spirit is constantly calling our name, inviting us to take a seat at the table while we be discipled by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
There is more here. I hope I haven’t even scratched the surface on what it means to talk with the Trinity on a daily, moment by moment, basis.
Prayer will stay empty if we simply treat it as transactional. If we believe that if we “say the right things” then we’ll get the response we want from God we’ll miss it. We end up treating him more like a holy genie than the God of the universe.
If you’re someone who has struggled with prayer in the past, like I have, then try some of the conversational tips pointed out in this blog. It’s never too late to pull up a seat at the table.