As a high school senior, I remember thinking, “If I am going to get down on my knees, share my innermost thoughts and feelings, plead to God to help solve all the high school craziness in my life, then I need to know if He is really there, and capable of doing anything about all of my perceived problems!” Even bowing my head to pray before a meal seemed odd to me. Who am I talking to? What on earth did He have to do with the plate of food sitting in front of me?
Through the ministry of the Billy Graham Crusades, I found answers. He explained that Jesus is real, and worthy of our trust. Dr. Graham challenged me (and thousands of others that night) to give Jesus all rights to my life. He explained that if I took that step of faith, the God of the Universe, through His son Jesus Christ, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, would “take up residence in my life.” I had no idea what that meant or how to accomplish it. I just invited Him into my life and determined to sit back and see what happened. Almost fifty years ago, I did just that. And then life happened.
This is what I now know. God is real. Sometimes life is wonderful and full of happy surprises. Sometimes the hurt, disappointment and pain seem unbearable. He loves me and cares about the details of my life. Miracles are real. God hears and answers every prayer.
Over the years, I have discovered that the more I know and experience God, the richer my prayer life becomes. As a young Christian I would present God with my daily requests/demands. If they were not responded to exactly as I had asked, and within a timely manner, I was disappointed, annoyed and sometimes angry. What good is a God that can’t or won’t give me exactly what I want, when I want it?
After a lifetime of reading and studying the Bible, experiencing Gods’ presence in my life, and seeing His reflection in nature, music and art, my view of God has radically changed. He is not Santa waiting for my prayers to drift up to the North Pole so that he can start fulfilling my wish list. No, he is the great I AM. He is the Alpha and the Omega. The all knowing, all powerful, all loving, Creator God of the Universe! The more I know God, the more my prayer life changes.
For me, prayer is now far more than a daily ritual. It’s quieting myself as I approach the throne and enter into His presence. It’s offering up a grateful heart for the many blessings in my life. It’s giving praise and thanksgiving. It’s seeking comfort for a broken heart or a major disappointment. It’s asking forgiveness for the sin in my life. It’s seeking divine guidance and wisdom. Its aligning myself with God’s will for my life. It’s an opportunity to spend time with the God I love, and the God who has demonstrated over a lifetime His real and tangible love for me.
Kay Coles James is an author and former presidential appointee who also served as Virginia’s Secretary of Health. She currently serves on corporate boards and is president of the Gloucester Institute, a leadership training center for young African Americans.
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