Prayer is a lot less like math and a whole lot more like art.
Romans 8:15-17 “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
I tend to make prayer look a lot more like math than it should. I make prayer formulas where I input this or that to attain the outcome I desire. However, prayer is a lot less like math and a whole lot more like art. In art, you are handed a blank page and told to make something. Unlike math, it’s almost impossible to exactly duplicate something in art. This is a struggle for me for the same reason I was great at math and bad at art. I want a correct answer. I want to know I did it right. I want an equation that can be applied to all circumstances. What I am learning is that this is actually a spirit of slavery. This spirit is constrictive and determines a right and wrong way to be with my Father. That was never the intent.
Receiving the Spirit of adoption has never been more practical for me than in the last year. It has been an entire year of yearning and asking and waiting and enduring and suffering all for the sake of bringing a child into our family through adoption. This has been a year of prayer. At first, prayer was a mathematical formula where my brain reminded me of the things I needed to say and the ways that I needed to act before the throne. Slavery. Now, I approach Jesus on a blank canvas and color the things that I love about him. I paint the things that I don’t understand. I draw the things that I wish were different and I beg him to intercede. I come to my Father and sit canvas in hand. I tell him the things that I need. He hears me, he waits with me, and he feels everything I do even deeper than I ever could. In this season of trying to adopt, Jesus has revealed that we were first adopted. The Father has yearned, asked, waited, endured, and suffered for our adoption first. Once we see the Father’s heart for us, prayer no longer remains just a formula.
A spirit of slavery says that when you pray you must say these things, you must be in this or that mindset, your environment must be suitable for silence or solitude or stillness, you must take this posture, you must end with Amen, and you must do it this way every time. Notice the word must. While the Spirit of adoption says you may say whatever you desire, you may be in any state of mind, you may hold any posture, be in any place, speak or be silent, take as long as you need, or offer but a few words. The Spirit says that no matter the how, you are heard.
Romans 8:26 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Still, we don’t pray as we ought. Yet, scripture doesn’t tell us to do better or try harder (slavery). Scripture tells us that once again, God has provided a way, a helper – the Spirit. The Spirit intercedes for us because we do not pray as we should. All we can do is take our canvas and offer it up. The rest is up to the Spirit.