We can’t generate anything on our own, but the power of the Holy Spirit can start a mighty blaze—and He uses prayer to accomplish His will.
On New Year’s Day, my friend April went camping with her family on the beach. They started a fire, but the wood was a little rain-soaked, and they were having trouble keeping it going. Her husband needed to run up to the camper with the kids and charged April with keeping the fire going. He told her to grab dead brush or sticks, whatever she could find to help keep it burning until he got back.
April tried her best, but everything she threw in the fire burned up quickly, only proving sufficient for a few seconds. After several repeat efforts, she sat down to take a break, resigned to the fact that her husband would have to figure something else out when he came back. While sitting there, April realized she was alone (as mamas of littles, we know this doesn’t happen often on vacation!) and took the opportunity to pray. She covered her family in prayer, asking God for new opportunities in the new year, for increased faith, and so on. Suddenly, she realized she was feeling quite warm and opened her eyes to a blazing fire. The fire was roaring—to zero effort of her own.
When her husband returned to the beach, he was impressed and asked what she’d done. Her answer? “Nothing.” And that’s when the message hit her. When she stopped striving and started praying, the fire burned bright. Her works contributed nothing, but her prayers mattered much. The Lord wanted her to see that prayers of faith are much more productive than our futile works. We can’t generate anything on our own, but the power of the Holy Spirit can start a mighty blaze—and He uses prayer to accomplish His will.
If that doesn’t “fire” you to up to start praying, I don’t know what will!
April walked away from the beach that night with one goal for her new year: Stop striving. Start seeking.
The Unnecessary Pressure
It got me thinking about why we’re so hesitant as believers to pray. If we truly know and believe in the power of prayer, as we say we do, then why are we not praying without ceasing, as instructed in 1 Thessalonians? 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV) “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
I think it’s because of the pressure we put on ourselves when we pray. We think we must pray for a certain length of time, or it doesn’t count. Or we get really silly and fall for the lie that we have to be totally alone, or kneeling, or have our eyes closed for it to matter. Or maybe anxiety gets in the way, and we think if we pray, we have to pray for everything and everyone, and who has time for that? We spiral into guilt because we don’t remember our friend’s prayer request from Sunday School last week, or we forgot the name of that man fighting cancer on social media, or we just get so tired we can’t keep our brains focused. So we deem ourselves a failure at prayer and move on to the next thing instead—usually laundry.
The good news is exactly what April realized—it’s not up to us.
The Value of Scripture
I had a similar experience this past weekend. I had slunk into a horrible mood. I was burned out, stressed, and taking everything anyone did very personally. I had a lot to do but just wanted to get in bed and start over the next day. The only problem was…it was three in the afternoon.
I tried to pray, but the words felt stuck. Everything was wrong at once, and I didn’t know where to start or what I actually needed. Then that familiar Still, Small Voice (the Holy Spirit) reminded me that reading my Bible would help. I agreed but didn’t want to. I didn’t want to do anything. I had zero motivation, and we were out of Oreos (#worstdayever). Still, I reluctantly slunk to my Bible on my dresser and, not even bothering to sit down, listlessly flipped it open.
And do you know what page it opened to?
Psalm 94:19 (ESV) “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
I started laugh-snorting—while crying. (Which was quite the sound effect!) Talk about an instant mood lift! The Lord sought me out. He knew what my heart needed even when I wasn’t sure…and He provided it with one simple verse that reminded me of the truths I needed most: that I was seen, accepted, and loved, even in my darkest place. Even in my mood and apathy and temptation toward disobedience. All I did was “randomly” open my Bible. He did the work. I had the faith (generated by the Holy Spirit.) He saw my overwhelmed heart and specifically acknowledged it with His Word. Then, because of that, I was literally consoled by His Word. And I was cheered.
Talk about the Bible being the Living Word!
Falling Short and Feeling Unmotivated
As a woman in any stage of life, I'm sure you can relate to those periodic feelings of despondency. Maybe you’re sitting on a proverbial faith beach this year and can’t get your fire started again. Maybe you’re checking off a list of Christian disciplines and are caught up in the “do’s” and “don’ts” of it all, assuming you’re falling short and feeling unmotivated to work any harder.
Or maybe your past year was hard, and you can’t generate the “want to” right now. You’re stuck in your bad mood and know how to get out but can’t muster the energy to take that first step. Maybe your faith has been diminished to smoldering ash, and you’ve got nothing to throw in the fire.
I’ve been there. It happens. And may I be the first to tell you that the fire can start blazing again? It’s not too late. And just like my friend April, you don’t even have to strike a match. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.
This new year, you’re free. Shake off the guilt and legalism. The first step to firing up your prayer life is recognizing it’s not all up to you. You don’t have to strive! You don’t have to force anything. Prayer is not a legalistic, fill-in-the-blank format that you’re capable of screwing up.
Your Heavenly Father simply wants to hear from you and speak with you.
Just like you’re rarely annoyed when your best friend or spouse wants to sit and talk, God is never annoyed when we do. He’s never impatient, out of time, or in a hurry to do something else. He’s never interrupted or weary or internally rolling His eyes, wishing you’d change the subject. He’s there, and He speaks to us, too. Sometimes by allegory and fire. Often by His Word. Other times by that Still, Small Voice nudging us toward godly practices.
The True Practice of Prayer
Don’t get me wrong. Prayer takes a measure of discipline because we must remember to do it. Praying without ceasing requires forming a new habit. But the beauty of that is that consistent prayer is more a heart posture than an act. You don’t have to have a three-step or ten-step program. You don’t have to follow a particular social media influencer or buy a book to pray. Just stop, right where you are, and take a deep breath. Tune your heart to your God. Be honest and tell Him exactly what’s on your heart, uncensored. (He can take it!) Unload your cares.
Praying without ceasing doesn’t necessarily mean you never take a breath or that you’re constantly talking out loud. It doesn’t mean that you can never talk to anyone else, go to school or work, or focus on a task because you’re praying. No, praying without ceasing is about keeping a line of communication open with the Lord. It’s about confessing our sins rather than hiding from them and walking in the Spirit in obedience.
And here’s a secret—prayer begets more prayer. The more you pray, the more you want to…usually because you start to remember how much it helps your heart!
So even in the bad moods, on the bad days, when the wood is rain-soaked, and the hormones are raging, and everyone is annoying you—pray.
This new year, fire up your prayer life by simply beginning again and trusting Him to fan into flame that tiny, flickering spark in your spirit. He is faithful. Philippians 1:6 (ESV) “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/Joshua Newton
Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of over twenty romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her hubby, two daughters, an impressive stash of coffee mugs, and one furry Schnauzer-toddler. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored to truth. When she’s not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can be found somewhere in the vicinity of an iced coffee. She is a regular contributor to iBelieve.com and offers author coaching and editorial services via Storyside LLC.