"A long, slow journey":  When the answers to your prayers take a long time to come, you can learn to adjust your lifestyle to God's timing.  Remember that prayer isn't primarily about getting something from God right when you want it; instead, it's about being with God and allowing Him to change you in the process.  Waiting on God helps you learn to trust God's good plans for your life, even when you don't understand or agree with His timing.  Ask God to give you the strength to be patient while you must wait.

"A dangerous activity":  When God responds to your prayers by calling you to grow as a person in uncomfortable ways or make difficult sacrifices to help others, praying can seem like a dangerous activity.  But remember that God wants to bless you - just on His terms, not yours.  While you may pray to be relieved of your cares, God wants to propel you into spiritual growth and service.  Invite Him to do the work He wants to do in your soul and through your life.  You'll ultimately benefit in powerful ways from it.

"Paying attention":  When you meditate on Bible passages, you can listen to the themes of your own life as you notice the connections.  Ask yourself: "How is God's Word intersecting in my life?", "Am I meditating on a portion of God's Word that is actually coming to life right now?", and "How is Jesus leading me to follow Him through these circumstances?".  As you pay closer attention to God's work in your life, you'll start to notice it at all times and in all situations.

"Feeling God's heartbeat":  When you're feeling sad or lonely, imagine yourself hugging God so closely that you can feel His heartbeat.  Rest in His presence, enjoying His company without any agenda to pursue with Him.  Contemplate the powerful reality that His Spirit lives in you.  Thank God for His great love for you.  Set aside time in your busy schedule to spend with God in silence regularly.  You'll receive more peace from Him that will carry over into all of your activities.

"Love":   When you pursue intercessory prayer, you become immersed in God's ongoing community of love.  Praying for others and allowing them to pray for you invites God to pour His love into all of your lives, drawing you all closer to Him in the process.

Adapted from The Folly of Prayer: Practicing the Presence and Absence of God, copyright 2009 by Matt Woodley. Published by IVP Books, a division of InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Ill., www.ivpress.com
Matt Woodley is the senior pastor of Three Village Church, Long Island, New York. He is the coauthor, with his wife Julie and H. Norman Wright, of Surviving the Storms of Life and the author of Holy Fools. He has also written a number of articles published in Discipleship Journal and Leadership Journal as well as The Mars Hill Review. 

Original publication date: February 3, 2010