Are You There, God? It’s Me… – “Spam Likely”

Are You There, God? It’s Me… – “Spam Likely”

“How Do I Struggle With This?”

When I was in college, I was really trying to understand what it meant to follow Jesus and grow
in my faith. I had heard people describing their relationship with God as their Heavenly Father,
but at the time I had a strained relationship with my dad. I heard people refer to Jesus as closer
than a brother, but at that time in my life, my brother and I were more like rivals. And I would
hear people describe their relationship with God as having a best friend. I wanted to experience
this but I didn’t understand it really.
I had friends who talked about their amazing times of prayer with God, and I wanted that but
didn’t fully understand what that meant. It seemed like prayer was the pathway to a close
relationship with God, but I struggled with prayer. I would get distracted or fall asleep or forget to
do it. I had started to like reading the Bible and had even started memorizing verses, but I could
not seem to get into any real rhythm praying.
I decided I was going to go to the church near campus where I was helping with the teenagers
and stay up all night praying. I was determined to connect with God, to have a supernatural
experience, and to have a story to share with my friends.
The night came and I took some snacks, some drinks, my Bible, a pen, and a journal with me. I
was thinking of it like a sleepover with God. I was hoping He would reveal to me my future.
Maybe He would make it clear who I should marry or where I should live after college.
I prayed out loud for a few minutes and then decided to read some of the prayers in a book in
the Bible called Ephesians. I was sitting on the floor reading, and I don’t remember how far I
read. All I know is that I woke up with my face on my Bible around 10am the next morning! I had
slept through the entire night! Not only had I slept through the entire night, I slept for like 11
hours – more than I usually ever slept!
I was so disappointed in myself and so frustrated. I started praying out loud again knowing that I
needed to get up and leave because I had something to do on the calendar. After I begged God
to forgive me and shared my frustration with God for failing to do what I had wanted to do, I had
this thought I think was a thought from God: “You don’t need to hit a home run every once in a
while. Start hitting singles every day.”
For those of you unfamiliar with baseball, it used to be America’s Sport back when I was a kid.
The home run was the best play in baseball, but some of the hitters who hit the most home runs
also tended to strike out more than the others because they were always swinging for the
fences. The teams who had players who were consistently getting on bases actually had a
better chance of winning.

As I shared last week, prayer has always been hard for me, but I have come up with some
adaptations that have really helped. I like to write out my prayers in my journal. What’s nice
about this is being able to go back and see how God has answered some of my prayers. In fact,
I have been doing this for so long, I have forgotten more miraculous answers to prayer than I
remember! In looking at my journals, I have found so many things that really scared me or
concerned me or worried me which kept coming up in my journal being resolved in ways better
than I could have imagined.
I also love prayer walking with my headphones on. Once again this keeps me awake, and if I
am talking out loud with my headphones on while walking around my neighborhood, people just
think I am on the phone instead of crazy.
Finally, another adaptation I have made since those days is praying with people throughout the
day. Whether it be my wife on one of our walks or with my kids whenever they are concerned or
worried about something or in a conversation with a friend or times set aside to pray with others.

“How do we all struggle with this?”

What about you? How would you describe your prayer life? Are you consistent? Do you only go
to God in an emergency? Have you given up on prayer? Do you feel like you are talking to the
wall? Or have you experienced the peace that comes with God’s presence and guidance?
I would venture to say most of us, if not all of us, would describe our prayer life like this- “it could
be better.”
According to the Journal of the Scientific Study of Religion, a survey taken in 2021 indicated that
“Nearly 30 percent of Americans pray for over 5 minutes daily, 32 percent say grace daily, and
21 percent of Americans meditate daily. Among those who pray, the typical prayer lasts around
a minute or two for nearly 40 percent of Americans and a little over 5 percent of Americans pray
for half an hour or more whenever they pray.”
Which of these statistics describe you?
By the way, prayer doesn’t only have to be verbal, we can connect to God through our thoughts
throughout the day.
Some of us ghost-follow God, it is like we are watching his Instagram feed, we might even like
his content, however, we don’t engage in a relationship with Him in the way that our soul needs.
What He offers is all the content we need!
It’s like we go to Him once a week (which is better than not at all) or twice a week (once on
Sunday and once in our Gateway group which is better) or once a day including several days a
week on our own (which is much much better, but still we have access to God at all times and
any time! But prayer is constant engagement. It’s asking the Holy Spirit to give you the right
words to say in the middle of that tough conversation at work. It’s praying the prayers of the
BIble over your children. It’s even as silly as asking God for a parking spot to open. It’s constant
interaction. For some of us we need to remove the box of formality and religion we have
relegated prayer too.
Whether or not you believe in prayer and whether or not you feel like you know how to pray,
during this series you will discover the power of and the path to connecting with God which can
bring comfort, hope, and healing.

“What does the Bible say about this?”

The disciples of Jesus would see Jesus disappear for hours and come back seemingly
refreshed and ready to move the mission forward. Jesus would often withdraw to pray.
Curious about what he was doing, they asked him to help them. We can read the story in Luke
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to
him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
“When you pray, say:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
3 Give us each day our daily bread.
4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation. – Luke 11:1-4
Some of you may have grown up where you quoted this in church and perhaps it has lost its
meaning. Some of you have may have grown up where this prayer was used almost like a form
of punishment (“say 100 ‘Our Fathers’ to be forgiven”).
Instead, we need to see this prayer from Jesus as a guide to remember to pray for what we
need and share with Him what we want, and trust everything to Him.
Let’s walk through this so that we know how to pray according to Jesus.
“Our Father…” – God is personal and loving.
“Hallowed or Holy is your name…” -There is no one like him in Heaven or on Earth.
“Your kingdom come…” – Jesus’ primary message was that the Kingdom of Heaven is here!
Our most effective prayers are when we pray the heart of God, according to His Word and His
will. He wants us to bring more of heaven to earth everywhere we go!

“Our daily bread…” – not weekly bread, but a fresh everyday dependence on Him, like Israel
had in the wilderness. “
“Forgive us” – remind us of our need for God and of our need to be in right relationship with
other people. This is part of what makes followers of Jesus different from the rest of the world!
“Lead us not into temptation’ – an acknowledgement that we need God’s help out of
temptation. He always has a way out. When we give into temptation we hurt ourselves, those
we love, and we do not represent God well.
Too often we pray the Lord’s Prayer Backwards
We pray something like
“God save me, deliver me!”
“Oh, ya…forgive me Lord..
By the way…I need some provision…some “daily bread”…I’ve got these bills!
May your Kingdom Come
And….Your Great God…thanks
The Lord’s Prayer was in the news this week. The pilot of the new Artemis crew is Victor Glover,
and he said the following: “When Jesus was teaching the disciples to pray, he used that very
specific prayer that we all know, ‘Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name …’ So,
listen, I am a messenger of his kingdom; his will be done.”
And he went to ask people to pray for the crew and their families as they take on this mission.
Think of all things that have to go right. Artemis 2 is scheduled to do a flyby – traveling more
than 200,000 miles to loop around the moon, going about 4,600 miles to the far side before
gravity catches them, pulls them around, and points them back to Earth for the return journey.
One space journalist said, “Their job is to break in a new transportation system and come home
to tell everyone all about it.” This is true, but “breaking it in” involves testing whether a craft that
has never flown with people in it can sustain life.
I found it remarkable that this pilot who’s at the top of his profession, the 1% of the 1%, he’ll be
the first Black astronaut to orbit the moon, and in this article he talks about the importance of
prayer. If we’re honest it’s “easy” to pray when life has beat us up and we are down on our luck.
We cry out to God in desperation, in those times like you need a miracle to just survive! And
don’t get me wrong those prayers are valid, necessary, and important. But do you still pray after
you get the thing you prayed for? Because when you’re at the bottom and can only look up, it
feels like God is your only hope.
But God desires for us to ALWAYS come to him. Whether our career is on a rocket trajectory or
we’re stuck in “Houston we have a problem” mode. Can i tell you this- you need God, and thus
need to pray, as much on your BEST day, as you do on your WORST day. Jesus told his
disciples, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” Meaning sure you can do a lot of important
things, maybe even good things, but apart from me you’ll never do any GOD things. Things that
last. Things that bring Heaven on Earth. Prayer is the oxygen our spiritual lungs need.
“The Lord’s Prayer is really the community’s prayer. What stands out in the prayer is its spirit of
submission and dependence. It envisions a community that walks with God and looks to him for
everything from food to forgiveness.” -IVP Commentary
From IVP Commentary: The communal emphasis is seen even at the prayer’s start, Father. In
fact, even in introducing the prayer as a call to the Father, Jesus does it with a pronoun
reminiscent of the Southern U.S. idiom “you all”: when you [plural] pray, say . . . As disciples
come before the Father, they are to affirm their unity and share a sense of family. This
communal character laid a solid groundwork for the liturgical use of the Lord’s Prayer. The
communal perspective reflected in the prayer is difficult to appreciate today in a highly
individualized society. But community before God, even sharing the same goals in intercession,
is a major part of discipleship.
After Jesus teaches them how to pray, he shares a story:
“5 Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and
say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 a friend of mine on a journey has come to me,
and I have no food to offer him.’ 7 And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The
door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8
I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet
because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.” –
Luke 11:5-8
Jesus invites us to pray with shameless audacity! What a beautiful thought!
“God honors bold prayers, because bold prayers honor God.” -Mark Batterson
Prayer is meant to be persistent, because persistent prayer is powerful!
Is God just trying to test us to see if we really mean it? Why doesn’t He just answer us the first
time? Why do we need to be persistent?
“The value of persistent prayer is not that God will hear us, but that we will finally hear God.” –
William McGill

God is a Father who constantly wants you pulling on His pant leg. God loves it when you blow
up His inbox. To Him it’s not spam! Our prayers don’t end up in the spam folder!
We don’t bother or annoy Him, he doesn’t leave us on Read. He longs to hear from us
He doesn’t block the call. He doesn’t screen your messages. He wants to hear everything.

The idea is not that God is trying to get us to beg him for what we want, but trust Him for what
we need which may not be exactly what we think.
There’s an old saying attributed to Augustine in the year 427 that we should “Pray as if
everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.” As someone who
has struggled with being a workaholic and not as dependent on God as I truly need to be, I
prefer to reverse it: “Pray as if everything depends on you, and work as if everything depends
on God.” – Gateway version of Augustine’s quote from A.D. 427
This means that prayer has to be urgent: God has to do something dramatic if everything
depends on me. It also puts our work in the right perspective: if it depends on God, we can let it
go. We can work hard but leave the outcome up to him.
And God desires us to come to Him not just in emergencies and not just once a day, but
throughout the day.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will
for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. 11 Look to the Lord
and his strength; seek his face always. – 1 Chronicles 16:10-11
God wants to answer our prayers.
9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will
be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one
who knocks, the door will be opened.
11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he
asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give
good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to
those who ask him!” – Luke 11:9-13
Remember, He is a Father who wants to give good gifts to His kids, and He knows what is best
for us!
“God always answers your prayers in precisely the way you want them to be answered if you
knew everything he knew.” – Timothy Keller

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will,
he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have
what we asked of him. – 1 John 5:14-15: 14
He hears us when we go to Him.
Prayer is not telling Him what to do but aligning our heart with His heart for us.
David’s Psalms – open and honest, venting, angry, anxious, and “yet I will still praise you no
matter what.”

“What should you do about this?”

Come up with a plan that works for you and start!
And then hit singles every day. No need to hit a homerun every once in a while. Just try to be
consistent. I want to encourage you to pick one or two of these and start this week!
60:60 Experiment – For 60 days connect with God every 60 minutes during the day. We have an
app to help you with this. Soul Revolution app logo. You can learn more from John Burke’s book
Soul Revolution. You will be amazed at how quickly that hour goes by, but you will also be
amazed how remembering to pray every hour on the hour will help you develop a better sense
of God’s presence and avoid forgetting to connect with God while you are at work or at school.
Now the next two have become more popular in our culture and have even been medically or
scientifically proven to help bring health and peace to our lives. I am talking about fasting and
meditation. Now the difference is the world does not include the spiritual part for fasting or the
world will point you towards a different type of fasting than what is in the Bible.
But why not try what Jesus did? Why do the unspiritual version of fasting or the type of
meditation that is about emptying your mind when you could do the full on versions that connect
your heart, mind, body, and soul to God?
Prayer and Fasting – one way to supercharge your prayer times and even help you to remember
to pray for a specific situation is to add fasting to your prayer time. Fasting, according to the
Bible, means to voluntarily reduce or eliminate your intake of food for a specific time and
purpose. Other options could be fasting from alcohol, sugar, caffeine, the news, social media,
your phone, or anything that every time you think of it you will remember to pray or it may be a
distraction for you that keeps you from praying.
I have used this option alot in my life when I am stuck and unsure of what to do, when seeking
God for wisdom for a big decision, or even when I have needed God to work in someone’s heart
that I love after I was unable to get through to him or her. I often fast from sugar or the news as
those two seem to be two of my biggest addictions or distractions. I think about sugar and the
news alot so I end up praying a lot! And I have seen God work in significant ways!

I have had very specific prayers answered in my marriage, with my son, and with my daughter
just after or even during a fast I was on about those specific relationships.
Now, be sure to consult a doctor before eliminating calories from your diet.
Try Biblical Meditation – which means contemplating or thinking about a passage of Scripture.
The Hebrew word “meditation” means “to chew.” You are chewing on a passage.You are
thinking about what the author must have meant and thinking about all the angles of the
passage and even thinking and praying about how to apply the passage to our lives.
Instead of emptying your mind, biblical meditation is about filling your mind with what is Pure,
Praiseworthy, Lovely, Admirable, Noble, True, Excellent, and Right. This is an acronym
rearranging what we find in Philippians 4:8. So you are filling your mind like you would put a
seed in a PLANTER. To remember this just think of what you sow or plant is what you reap. In
other words, what you think about affects how you feel, how you think, how you act, and how
you live.

A friend of mine in my online men’s group started listening to the Gospel of John on the Bible
App called YouVersion at half speed whenever he woke up in the middle of the night. It was his
way to really let the Word of God saturate His heart and mind.
Try Memorizing Prayers – Start with the Lord’s Prayer. Consider memorizing the prayer in
Ephesians 1 or Ephesians 3. Consider other written prayers of lament or praise or the Serenity
Prayer. Sometimes these prayers can help you refocus or know how to get started.
One of the advantages of biblical meditation and memorizing prayers is God often uses His
Word to speak to us. You are adding more of God’s vocabulary to your heart and mind so that
when a phrase or verse or prayer from the Bible comes to mind, you can know that is one of the
ways God whispers to us what He wants for us.

Pray with others. The Gatewaychurch.com/diggingdeeper is going to have a new section where
as a church we are going to pray together so that in all of our groups we can learn how to pray
and practice prayer together. If you aren’t in a Gateway group then try this with your roommates
or your family or join a group! Some groups focus on Healing, some on Belonging, Some on
Serving, and some on Growing. Indicate your interest on the Connect Card and/or at the
Connect Spot.

“How can we all live this out together?”

What if we became people in tune with Jesus and what He wants for our lives? What if we were
able to experience God’s presence, His peace, and His guidance?
You know what would happen? We would bring more of heaven to earth at work, in our
neighborhood, in our home, in Austin! God would use us in part as the answer to our own
We would live at peace with others because we are able to forgive others and ask for
“In this series ‘Are You There God? It’s Me…” we are looking at how we can have a more
meaningful connection with God through prayer that brings us peace. Maybe you’ve had
moments with God like that in your past.

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