As we enter into the first week of Twenty-One Days of Prayer, my prayer for you is that you would learn to embrace and love the journey of prayer. I think most of us think of prayer as a simple conversation with God, and in many ways prayer is just talking with God. But anyone who has attempted to embrace a life of prayer knows that prayer is much more than a simple conversation, in both profoundly good and profoundly frustrating ways. In fact, I would be bold enough to say that no one who has ever tried embracing prayer as a regular part of a lifestyle of faith has avoided this profound frustration.

The reason for this is that so often when we come to God in prayer, the posture of our heart sets us up for failure. When we come to God, we come with our agenda, “God I need this, God I want you to do that, God please come through here”. We enter into the presence of God for a conversation with someone who can do something about our situation. And then nothing happens. A frustration builds and creates a lack of motivation when nothing we are asking for happens after a day, a week, twenty-one days, a month or even years. And we wonder what’s the point of even having this conversation when God never seems move or even to respond in the situation.

If you’ve ever experienced that frustration with prayer, my encouragement to you is to reexamine your perspective on prayer. For almost two thousand years, the Christian understanding of prayer goes beyond the idea of a conversation with God and instead embraces a view of prayer as a discipline. Prayer is not simply how we hear from God, how God connects with us or a method to grow in our intimacy with God. It is all of those things, but in addition the habit and discipline of prayer is means by which God conforms our desires and our character to his will. The ultimate point of prayer is not a transfer of information or getting God to do what we want. In fact, Luke 22:42 tell us that even Jesus prayed a prayer that God answered with a resounding “no”. But he didn’t respond that way because he was rejecting Jesus, but because there was a greater “yes” on the other side.

The true gift of prayer is not in the answer itself, it is in the intimacy and growth that comes in the journey of following God through the highs and the lows of life and being willing to continually return to his presence in prayer regardless of the circumstances. So pour your heart to your Heavenly Father during these three weeks. Let him know exactly what you want, because honestly he already knows anyway but he still wants you to ask. But don’t let His answer determine your behavior. Let these twenty-one days serve as a catalyst to a new habit of prayer that can shape the rest of your life of walking with God.

— Pastor Tony Lutyk