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Podcast 1.08 How Many Ways Can You Pray?

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Episode 8: How Many Ways Can You Pray?

(Musical intro)

Intro: Welcome to the Encounter Jesus podcast, also known as the ‘feel like Jesus is hugging you today’ podcast. I’m Elizabeth Ellynshaw, and today I have some good news for you about prayer. When I was a little kid I thought “praying” meant you had to close your eyes, bow your head, and fold your hands, and you had to start with ‘dear God’ and you had to finish with ‘in Jesus’ name, amen’ or else it isn’t praying. And of course, you can do all those things if you want to. But praying can be so many different things.

God is our Father, and children can talk to their parents in so many different ways. We could talk with them in the car on the way to school, or snuggle before bedtime, or draw pictures and hang them on the fridge, or just cry to be picked up; when grow up we can call or send a quick text or a long letter or go out to eat together. And so there are so, so many different ways we can reach out for our heavenly Father and communicate our hearts to Him, and all of them count as prayer! In the episode where we were talking about God playing peek-a-boo with us, I said He has His own unique love languages for communicating to each one of us. But in the same way, we each can have our own love languages for communicating to Him. And today I want to give you lots and lots of examples in hopes that it will inspire you to find the creative ways to spend time with your heavenly Father that will meet the deepest needs of your heart.

(Musical transition)

Prayer: Father, I pray for the person listening to this right now and I ask that You will show them the ways that You are waiting for them to meet with You and the freedom and space there is in Your presence, and that just as You brought the animals to Adam to see what he would name them, so You are hovering over them and watching to see what they will choose and decide and do with the time and abilities and opportunity You are giving them, and that You delight so much in each one of their choices. And I pray that in that freedom that You delight so much to give, they will be able to create and choose ways of loving You in prayer that will bring both You and them that kind of Eden joy. In Jesus’ name, amen.

(Musical transition)

Content: Every year I attend a conference where over 600 people gather to pray for the unreached people groups of the world. We pray all day for four days, and we take turns to keep the prayer going all night too. Now, if our definition of prayer meant that we had to fold our hands and bow our heads and close our eyes for twelve hours a day, that would be really hard. But actually, those four days of prayer are always four of the most fun days of the year for me! Because at that conference, they teach what they call having a ‘broad definition of prayer,’ that lots and lots of things we can do with God count as prayer.

First of all and most importantly, they taught us that Worship counts as prayer. Worship doesn’t have to involve music. One of the most amazing pictures of worship and adoration in the Bible are the women who knelt at the feet of Jesus and washed His feet with their tears and their kisses and dried them with their hair, and sometimes broke and poured out valuable perfume on His feet. The gospel of Luke says an unnamed woman with a sinful past did this at the home of Simon the Pharisee to thank Jesus for forgiving her sins, and the gospel of John says that Mary of Bethany the sister of Martha and Lazarus did this at Lazarus’ resurrection party to thank Jesus for bringing her brother back to life. We also know multiple women went to mourn at Jesus’ tomb after He died and instead found an empty tomb and then they met an angel and then they met Jesus Himself alive again. And in Matthew’s gospel, it says that when they saw Jesus alive, they “came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him” (Matt 28:29). There was no music playing in any of these scenes, just absolute adoration of Jesus for forgiving sins, for rising from the dead, and for being God. And anything we do to express that kind of adoration to Jesus is worship.

But of course, that worship and adoration can involve music, as it does in many of the scenes in heaven in the book of Revelation. Remember the worshipers in heaven in Revelation 5:8 who had the golden bowls of prayer incense in one hand? They had harps for praise and worship with music in the other hand. Our worship and our prayer go together and they rise together to God, and worship is the most important part of our prayers. So at the conference they taught that singing to God counts as prayer, dancing for God counts as prayer, playing a musical instrument for God counts as prayer, waving a flag for God counts as prayer.

And so do a lot of other things. Like crying, weeping, and groaning before God—that’s prayer. Listening to God and sitting in silence before Him—that’s prayer. Writing God a letter, painting Him a picture, or even cutting up magazine photos to make a collage to express your heart to God—that’s prayer. And of course, just plain old talking to Him, whether alone or in a group, loud or soft, long or short, on your knees or in your chair or in your bed or taking a walk or in your car or facedown on the floor or on your back in the grass—that’s prayer.

And guess what? When we prayed in all these creative and restful ways, at the art table and on the dance floor and in song and sitting still to listen and journal, we could easily pray for twelve hours without getting tired!

The last year I went to the conference, many of us agreed that we experienced both the quietest prayer and the loudest prayer in our lives so far. The quietest prayer was when we all sat together in silence before the Lord for 30 minutes. 600 people sitting together in one room yet keeping absolutely silent before God for 30 minutes, just waiting on Him and listening to Him, when you could have heard a pin drop, just 600 people breathing. I had never experienced anything like it. It was such a holy moment.

At the end of thirty minutes of that, the facilitator tried to speak but for several minutes he couldn’t speak because he felt overwhelmed by the presence of God. When he could speak, he instructed us to all stand up and silently circle the room just as the Israelites walked around the walls of Jericho in silence. As we walked, we silently thought of situations in the world where we needed breakthrough that hadn’t come yet. And then, just like all Israel broke their silence with a loud shout at the appointed moment and the walls fell down, we all roared our cry to God at the same moment. What a powerful moment of prayer that was!

So that was the quietest prayer meeting. The loudest prayer meeting, on the other hand, was when it was time to pray for a nation that we knew had a lot of spiritual warfare going on. The leaders felt led to have prayer for this nation with a ‘war dance.’ What is a war dance? Well, the music team played and sang a worship song about God being victorious, and the dance team led us all in simple movements, and all 800 people danced together with all our hearts. Boom, boom, boom, all those feet stamping in unison in agreement, pounding the floor like the marching of a mighty army, like this army of angels we were praying to send out.

So both the silent prayer and the loud prayer felt Just Right, and it gave me a picture I will never forget of how diverse wonderful prayer can be.

This conference is also where I first started dancing with flags. I walked into the room on the first day, and this time I saw 800 people worshipping, because 200 of them were the children, and it looked like almost all 200 kids they were all up in the front waving flags of different colors, shapes, and sizes. And many of the grown-ups, both men and women, were joining them in that too! There was so much energy, color, and emotion! I felt like I had just walked into the original palm Sunday, or even part of the celebration in the heavenly throne room, it felt like we really were remembering and believing and picturing and responding to the truth that Jesus was in the room with us; we were responding the way we would if He was having a Resurrection Celebration Parade down the middle of the room on His white horse! I thought, these flags are an amazing tool for remembering and responding and celebrating like Jesus is in the room. I want to get some of those and celebrate like that when I am alone with Him, too.

So I did, and flagging became one of my favorite ways to connect with God in worship and prayer, but your favorite ways might be different, because He created each one of us uniquely to connect with Him in unique and wonderful ways.

(Musical transition)

Question: Today I invite you to plan a special time with God and just pray in some way you’ve never prayed before. If you’ve never prayed by painting or drawing or collaging a picture as a prayer to God, you could try that. If you’ve never danced a prayer over a people group or nation, you could try that. If you’ve never prayed lying on your face on the floor before, you could try that. Or maybe you can think of a way to express your heart to God that I have never thought of or heard of before. Just like Adam had a special time of just him and God as he named the animals and God delighted in his choices, may you have a special time with just you and God where you use the creativity He has given you and He delights in what you do!

(Musical Outro)

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