Am I in charge of my prayer life?

Of course not. It ought to be an absurd question. Who am I? Finite, easily distracted, selfish even in my best moments: "Oh, look at me! Aren't I being so good! Why doesn't anyone notice?" Who is God? Infinite in love, power and wisdom, Creator and Lord of all that exists. Who is best qualified to be the senior partner in this relationship? He is.

And yet, Scripture doesn't assume we can be passive in prayer. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus didn't say just show up and listen to the Father. Jesus taught them a model prayer, that they could memorize and recite, and we are still using it. Why would Jesus give us a model prayer if it were not up to us most of the time to set the agenda for our conversations with God? Why does Paul "urge" in 1 Timothy 2 "that prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone, – for kings and all those in authority?" The urging shows we decide what we say in our prayer times. God entrusts us with the initiative in prayer. I think this is because in this life where faith in the unseen is so important ("without faith it is impossible to please God"), God limits how much he shows himself in our experience to leave room for faith.

I have heard people talk about the importance of listening to God in prayer. I can't say that I have a lot of experience with this. I believe I've heard God speak audibly or almost audibly once. (Whether it was an actual audible sound, or merely a strong impression in my mind is not something I fret about). But my usual experience of dialog with God is my mind "generating" his voice based on what Scriptures come to mind and how I judge they apply. And I suspect this is probably the normal experience for most Christians on this side of eternity.

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