Since I've found it so hard to think up topics to post on, I've decided to do a series on Everything I Know. We'll start with prayer and see where that takes us.
The first thing I've learned about prayer is that you learn it "on the job." If you commit to being an intercessor (someone who prays for other people), God will show you how as you go along, especially if you ask Him. Remember when the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray and He responded with an example of a prayer--the Lord's Prayer (See Matthew 6:9-14).
One thing God will do is He'll impress upon you what He wants you to pray in a given situation. He leads us in prayer, just like He does in other areas of our lives. Ask Him, and then get really quiet. He'll show you what He wants prayed. For example, my mother prays a great deal for our ministry. We had a new convert recently and when my mom read about it on my husband's blog, she felt led to pray that this young believer would have a strong confirmation of the certainty of her salvation, that no one in her family would be able to dissuade her from her decision. So, we're all praying that for this girl.
Another thing God will do is give you "prayer assignments." Some people call this a "prayer burden", because that's what if feels like-a real heaviness of heart about someone or some situation. It's almost like being worried about something, without the anxiety. Just a feeling that you must give your attention to the situation. If that happens to you, then pray and pray and pray until you no longer feel the urgency, or heaviness. This happened to me a few months ago in regard to some of our mission leadership. I felt that "burden" and began to pray. God led me to go to the internet and do a particular search to get more information (Yes, I am aware of how bizarre that sounds, but it's true :). I found the information I needed to know to pray and I began to pray. For about 2 months I felt this need to pray for this situation. I prayed morning, night, and whenever I thought about it during the day. Suddenly, about 9 weeks after I was given "that assignment", the burden went away. Just as quickly as it had come it was gone. I knew I had prayed enough on that situation. This is often referred to as "praying through" (I guess it's like going "through" a tunnel, you come out the other side). Often, when we no longer feel the urgency to pray, we feel guilty. We feel we should still keep praying and should still feel the urgency. That's when we need to just thank God for the opportunity to participate in His work and move on.
Those are some things I've learned about prayer. I'll continue this next post with some thoughts on the role of empathy and emotions in prayer and the importance of discretion in our prayer lives.