Have you ever had someone say to you “where were you? I texted you and left you a voice message and you did not get back to me”. Do their question and attitude cause you to feel a little bothered? Or, have you ever gotten frustrated when you tried to get a hold of someone and didn’t get an immediate response? Our technology, combined with an immediate gratification consumer expectation has resulted in an expectation of immediate responses, an expectation we know is unreasonable but some expect it.
God encourages communication with Him anytime, day or night. He does not limit our airtime with Him nor does He restrict our conversation to a numbers of words. He says He is available whenever and for whatever reason. Many believe this about God but have adopted an odd approach to prayer. They often behave like the caller who becomes frustrated when they do not get the immediate response they desired. Often they call and talk, but rarely listen and if they are honest with themselves, will admit they don’t talk to God as often as He desires. God understands why we offer spontaneous, spur of the moment prayers, and He does hear and respond but often we miss His interaction because we have moved on and left it with Him. Prayer is a form of worship and God would like us to worship Him with more intimate conversations. He actually wants to convey to us His response to our prayers. He doesn’t want us always calling and not waiting to see if He picks up and, although He allows us to leave messages, He’d like it if we listened for his reply.
James writes “When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives” (James 4:3a). He is talking about our attitude regarding prayer and could even be suggesting many don’t take time to talk or listen. Maybe all our prayers are one-sided and we talk without even acknowledging who we are talking to. It is appropriate to schedule time to pray so we can be uninterrupted and able to give God our full attention. James’ complete statement at verse 4:3 is “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). This may suggest our reason for calling on God may not be to glorify Him but to satisfy our own desires. Spontaneous prayers may sound needy at times and God understands, but He wants intimate prayer time with Him to be different. We go to God in prayer because He is the Lord Almighty who created and oversees the universe and also loves us and finds our time with Him to be precious. He wants to tell us that we are on His mind and that He has specific things He wants to say and personally give us.
In the days of the landline and even pre-answering machine, we knew when those we loved or cared about where available to talk on the phone. We may have even scheduled a weekly call because we wanted to ensure our time together would be uninterrupted and more cherished. God would be pleased if He could have a similar arrangement with us because He wants those uninterrupted, warm talks with us. He wants to hear us, and more importantly, He wants to talk to us.
If you are not in the habit of spending some time alone with God, you must consider making a change in that area. We know the benefits of giving and receiving someone’s undivided attention and with a few changes to our prayer practices, we can experience something special. We can continue with the short prayers or cries to God we offer in response to our daily life encounters, but it is important to make time for deeper conversations and to listen to Him. God sought us first and when His grace caused us to seek Him, He let it be known that our relationship would grow through meaningfully interactions where we both talked and both listened. Let your prayers also be your worship and be intentional about it.