Have you ever wrestled with the nagging sense that God doesn’t respond to your prayers? When others claim they hear God speaking everywhere, do you wish you could tune into the same frequency? For the longest time, I struggled with my prayer life. I actually just gave up trying to talk to God because I didn’t think I was doing it right, and I figured the Big Guy Upstairs had much more important issues to solve rather than respond to my pitiful requests. Yet, I couldn’t shake the yearning for a more meaningful relationship with Him, the kind I had seen in others. Something deeper. I wanted to believe that He was willing to speak to me, but I didn’t know how or what to change.
Then one morning, as I was skimming an email from the Valley Church Women’s Ministry calendar of events, my eyes stopped at a promotion for the prayer mentoring group. A group gathered to learn different ways of praying based on the book by Carol Madison called “Prayer that’s Caught and Taught: Mentoring the Next Generation.” Something in my spirit leapt. I had never heard of her or the book, but immediately, I knew I needed to be a part of this, despite the fact that meetings were early mornings 6:15-7:45. What did I have to lose . .. a little sleep? And since it was going to be through zoom, I didn’t have to leave the house. What could be more fun than a prayer meeting in my pajamas with bedhead?
It was several wonderful weeks of getting to know the two other participants and the leader. We learned so much from each other and were transformed by Carol Madison’s teachings. Just a few weeks ago, I attended Valley Church’s “Prayer Share” gathering where Carol spoke! I was so excited, as an aspiring author myself, to meet face to face with an author whose words I had highlighted and underlined for 10 weeks.
When she isn’t encouraging others to pray, Carol Madison edits PrayerCONNECT Magazine and directs prayer ministries at Hillside Church of Bloomington, Minnesota. She also coordinates strategic prayer initiatives for PULSE, a next-generation evangelistic ministry and runs her own business, Just Carol Editorial Resources, Unpretentious and humble, her brown eyes radiate deep wisdom with gentle humor, and I was eager to learn all I could from her. She spoke about ideas on how to grow your relationship with the LORD.
Find your sweet spot, she suggested. In other words, find the time of day that works best for you to devote your full attention to the Lord. It may not necessarily be early in the morning. It isn’t for Carol. She’s much more alert in the evenings. Find the best time of day to “listen and linger.” Yes, the implication here is that we must put forth some effort to seek out the Lord. Prayer isn’t passive. This is a relationship.
Carol says we need to be strategic and set the stage. She has to turn off her phone because she’s a news junkie, so she needs to eliminate the distraction of news alerts. She uses an Echo Prayer app so she can plug in her prayer list, and allow the Holy Spirit to shuffle it, bringing up whatever is important on any given day. I have not tried this particular app yet.
She doesn’t just suggest, but urgently insists that sincere seekers of the Lord use the scriptures in their prayers. Never say a prayer out-loud without an open Bible. Never open a Bible without including your own prayers. It’s like apple pie and ice-cream. Reading the entire Bible out-loud was a personal challenge she launched more than a year ago. Yes, the book of Leviticus was hard, but the process of going from cover-to-cover changed her life. When we pray with the scriptures, we are praying according to God’s will.
You Pray Wrong is one her chapters from the book. Isn’t that a fear we have all wrestled with at some point during our journeys? She told the story of how someone accused her of praying wrong as she prayed out-loud at a meeting. It bothered her until she realized it was actually spiritual warfare. The devil never wants our prayers to be effective. In my case, I came to the realization that I was indeed praying wrong! My prayers have tended to be self-focused. I need to move from “fix-it” prayers that focus only on changing a person or my circumstances – to Kingdom prayers – those that go deeper into recognizing God’s purpose for all things.
“Pray for God’s favor,” Carol said. What? This startled me! Ask God to bless me? But I don’t deserve God’s blessings. Then I realized that only by the blood of Jesus do I deserve any blessings. It’s hard for me to believe that I am deserving, or worthy of anything, so that’s definitely an area of growth. I need to begin the new habit of praying for favor.
We also need to ask God to fill us with a desire for Him. Distractions and desires of the flesh will yank us this way and shove us that way. To stay focused, we need to ask for help. I needed that powerful reminder.
Carol believes that prayer is a lifestyle, not a ritual. It’s a dialogue, not reciting rote emergency requests to get ourselves out of a jam. Prayer is being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It requires listening. “When we sense the Lord’s responses, we need to be ready to respond,” Carol said. In other words, going to unusual places to pray for unusual things. We don’t always have to understand.
There have been times when I know that I know that I KNOW the Lord has spoken directly to me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. My pulse quickened. I scribbled down my thoughts and impressions. For me, writing down my prayers, and what I believe to be the Lord’s responses, is critical. We dialogue on paper. Some of those moments have tuned into other blog posts. But that means staying alert and always making myself available, during my sweet spot, at 6a.m., before my kids wake, and some mornings I don’t always make that standing appointment. I’m inconsistent in finding my sweet spot, distractions derail me, and sometimes I choose Netflix over prayer, but I’m still determined to grow into a deeper relationship with God.
Thank you, Carol, for taking time out of your busy schedule to come talk to the women of Valley Church, and your wonderful words of wisdom. God did respond to my prayers!