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This is my personal favorite type of prayer. I find it more fun and rewarding than any other type of prayer. "Relationship prayer" is where we build and develop our personal relationship with God, where we get to know Him better - to know His personality, His likes and dislikes; and to develop an in-depth personal friendship with God.
It is sad, but a lot of believers don't know they can pray this way. So many Christians never develop the depth of intimacy with God that He desires them to have. Many believers don't know how to listen to God, to recognize His voice, and how to hear Him speak directly and personally to them in many aspects of their day-to-day life.
God loves His children and wants to be involved in every aspect of their lives. And relationship prayer is one of the ways that we learn to invite and recognize God's involvement in our day-to-day lives.
Let's look at some of the elements of relationship prayer.
The NKJV Bible has 201 verses that contain the word worship, and it is used in either of two contexts. Either the person is worshipping God, which pleases God, or the person is worshipping something besides God, which displeases Him greatly. In fact, in Ex. 34:24, God says point blank, "For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God."
The word praise is used 283 times in the Bible, and almost every time it refers to people's reactions to God after He did something for them. Many people equate praise and worship to the same thing, but they are really two different things. The focus of praise is on thanking God or exalting God for what He does for us, or for what He is about to do for us. For instance, Leah praised God when He gave her a son in Gen. 29:35. David praised God for delivering him from Saul and all of his enemies in 2 Sam. 22:1-4. The Israelites praised God for defeating enemy armies in 2 Chron. 20:22. In Ps. 18:3, David praised God because he knew that God was going to (future tense) deliver him from his enemies. Deut. 10:21 says, "He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen." Ex. 15:11 sums it up this way: "Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?" The focus of praise is on God's actions, on the things He does for us.
Worship is something different from praise. Worship is our response to the very presence of God. They are not totally unrelated, because there are times that God's actions make us aware of His presence. Then we respond to His presence by worship. Let's look at a couple of verses that talk about worship. Ex. 4:31 talks about the people of Israel responding to God's visitation by worshipping Him. It says, "So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped." Ex. 24:1 talks about Moses bringing Aaron and the 70 elders up the mountain of God (e.g., approaching Him or coming into His presence) so that they could worship Him. Exodus 33:10 says, "All the people saw the pillar of cloud" (e.g., God's tangible presence among them) "standing at the tabernacle door, and all the people rose and worshiped, each man in his tent door." In other words, their response to God's presence was to worship Him.
Many books have been written on worship. There is so much that can be said on this topic alone. But the most important thing we can say about worship is that it is "two-way." We begin by exhorting Him, by declaring His goodness and recalling the things He has done for His people. (So far that is "praise" or exalting/magnifying God.) Then, somewhere in that process, God shows up with His presence. Worship is when we respond to God's presence. That response can take on many forms. It can be joy or awe or excitement or comfort or sometimes Godly fear as we realize just how big and how powerful and how wonderful our God is. We can't help but respond to His presence and all else becomes unimportant as we flood our senses with His presence.
There are times when amazing things happen as we worship. There are times when people are spontaneously healed as we worship. There are times when enemy oppressions or bondages fall off as we worship. There are times when His presence (in worship) brings healing to emotional wounds or brings closure to problem areas that keep coming up over and over in a person's life. God is truly amazing, and when His tangible presence shows up, awesome things can happen.
Worship is an activity that can be done corporately or individually. There are many expressions that worship can take. The most common one is to music - to sing or dance before His presence as an act of worship. In fact, most corporate worship is done to worship music. The music redirects our attention from the problems/distractions of the day and helps everyone begin to put their focus on God. We begin to think about God's goodness and His greatness, and to invite His presence. And God frequently responds by coming to meet His people in tangible ways.
Worship to music can also be done individually, in the privacy of your own home or car or even on public transit (via a walkman and headphones). Different types of music work for different people; there isn't a right or wrong style of worship music. They key is to choose music that works for you, worship music that gets your focus and attention on God. And as you begin to praise Him through song and invite His presence, He begins to show up and meet you in wonderful ways. If you have never had this experience before, I recommend you give it a try because there is nothing as wonderful as coming into God's presence.
Music is not the only way you can worship. You can worship by thinking about God and His greatness, by recalling things you know about His nature and reminding yourself of things He has done in your own life, and then inviting His presence with you. Recall those times where God has miraculously come through for you. Remind yourself of those times when He protected you from harm. Remember those times where God has met you in a personal way, to help you grow and learn of Him. Remind yourself of what God has spoken to your heart and of the promises He has made to you. Remind yourself of the testimonies of others who have blessed or encouraged you. God is an awesome God and He has done many great deeds; spend some time reviewing those and reminding yourself of them. That is a type of praise that leads to worship.
There is a praise/worship exercise that many have found very helpful. Get a piece of paper and list 10 reasons you worship or like or respect or honor God the Father. This can be because of things you know about Him from the Bible. Or it may be recalling things He has done personally for or with you. When you have finished, jot down 10 reasons you worship or like or respect or honor Jesus. When you've finished that, do it again for the Holy Spirit. Some of you will find that you won't want to stop at 10 items and you may want to list more. Others may find it was surprisingly hard to come up with 10 things you worship about each member of the Trinity. (If you happen to hold a different theology than the popular one of a Triune God, e.g., you don't believe in the Trinity, then put your focus on Jesus Christ and list 25 things about Jesus.)
Sometimes churches will have "soaking meetings" (also known in some circles as "Holy Ghost meetings" or "renewal meetings," depending on which circle you travel in). The focus and intent of the meeting is to allow people to meet individually with God and to bask (or rest) in His presence. God will often speak to you deeply and personally during these meetings and He will often manifest His glory to people in them. There seems to be a special anointing of God's tangible presence on these meetings.
These meetings are often characterized by a long period of corporate worship and then by some personal testimonies. There may or may not be a short teaching or sermon. There is usually an extended ministry time where worship music is playing and those who desire it can receive some type of personal prayer, intended to help them connect with God in a deeper way. Some denominations will have prayer teams that pray for people. Some will have only the minister or church staff pray. But regardless of the church's style, people can receive some type of individual prayer inviting God to meet them and reveal Himself to them in a deeper way. The purpose of these meetings is to allow people to have a personal and deep encounter with God. After they have received brief prayer ministry, they will usually stay in God's presence for an extended period of time.
During this time, people come to be personally assured of God's love for them, to get to know God more personally, to worship Him, to experience His goodness or some other aspect of God (maybe His holiness or His faithfulness or His power). Some people report tangible sensations along with this, such as heat or tingling or what feels like sweetness or honey or oil pouring over them. Some people are flooded with the peace that passes all understanding. Some are flooded with joy and may even break out laughing. Others are flooded with deep repentance regarding an area were they have been in rebellion against God, and they may end up crying softly or even sobbing loudly. Some may see visions or angels. Others will be very quiet and not have any physical sensations or visions, but they will be filled with a deep confidence or conviction in whatever area God is meeting them in. The way God meets people can take on many forms. But the key is that people have deep and sovereign encounters with the Living God. And this is a wonderful form of worship and prayer where God meets and interacts with His children.
Conversational prayer is where you and God hold a two-way dialogue. Most of the time, God uses the "still small voice" for conversational prayer, and His voice sounds very much like our own thoughts. The better you get at recognizing His voice, the easier conversational prayer becomes. If you would like more help in recognizing God's voice, I recommend you look for the Dialogue With God individual workshop. That is available free on GodSpeak's website at: http://www.godspeak.net/workshop
Sometimes you will initiate the conversation with God. You may just start talking to Him about a subject, fully expecting Him to interact with you on it. Or you may end up asking God a question, such as asking Him what His opinion is on some current event or on a given church you visited, etc.
Let me share an example. One time I watched a TV show called "Texas Justice." It is a state of Texas small claims court where both sides present their arguments to the judge on TV and then the judge makes his ruling. One of those cases was where a contractor did a very poor job (and he did $2,000 of damage to the person's home). The person refused to pay the final installment of $500 because of the poor quality of work and the damages done to other parts of his home during the job. The contractor sued the person for the unpaid $500. For some reason, I became rather involved with this case and I hoped the judge would make the contractor return the $1,500 he'd already been paid to help cover the $2,000 in damages he'd caused. The judge ruled in the defendant's favor, that he did not have to pay another penny to the contractor, but he didn't require the contractor to pay for the damages he'd caused. I was very unhappy about the verdict and I began to ask God what He thought about it. (That is not a very spiritual topic, is it?) God answered, but not in the way I expected.
Instead of talking about the show, He began talking about His judgments. He began telling me that judgment belongs to Him, not to me, and as His spokesperson, my job is to merely report His judgments to others and not to have opinions about the way His judgments should go. We had a bit of a dialog on that, but God did most of the talking after I'd asked the initial question. (This is an example of a conversational prayer that I initiated.)
There will be times when God will initiate the conversation with you. He may ask you a question or He may do something to get your attention. And then He will begin to speak to you about it. You may end up asking Him questions about what He is saying so that you understand it better. That is also a form of conversational prayer, where you and God talk and interact on a given topic.
[We will look at some more types of relationship prayer in our next lesson.]