I’ve started writing this chapter countless times. Then I’ve edited, erased, and started again. I’ve walked away, said “no more”, only to return over and again to this cloud of thick gray ideas swirling in my mind. I wasn’t procrastinating, prognosticating, or writers’ blocking but knowing deep inside that it wasn’t time for the clouds to give the rain.
The following article is a from Well-Grounded: Cultivating Intimacy with God, Chapter 6, to be released this December. The views expressed in this article reflect those of the author, and not necessarily those of New Creation.
So, I waited and prayed. And then, I waited and prayed some more. All the while, I was watching and listening for the cloudy ideas to coalesce into raindrop words.
And now while on my knees with face upturned in expectation of cool breezes and the fresh smell of rain, I’d love to share with you a few of those raindrop words which started the flow for this chapter:
Oh, Jesus, please let the rain of Your truth wash away my unbelief and fear in a Noah-sized flood of grace that brings repentance, humility, and love’s powerful joy. I am thirsty and only You can make me clean and new, just like You’ve so graciously done before. Thank You for hearing my prayer. Thank You that You are trustworthy in all Your ways.
This farmer’s daughter knows full well, like Elijah did in 1 Kings 18:44, the gift of a good rain. Not even the best irrigation systems can replace a good rain. For the gift of a good rain is far bigger than the volume of water itself. Rain freshens with nutrients returned from air to ground and awakens sleeping roots, bacteria, fungi, and other vital soil residents. Rain cleans atmospheres above and below the soil surface while restoring pathways for nutrient transformation and transport.
Thus, the appropriate position for a farmer to receive a good rain is on her knees. Likewise, the appropriate position for a farmer’s daughter to receive an answered prayer is on her knees. Neither a good rain nor a prayer’s answer can be replicated; it can only be received. With open hands, hearts, and minds in gratitude with open eyes watching the heavens in expectation of more rain and more answered prayers to come at the right time (see James 5:7).
I wonder if Adam had a thought like this about prayer? Scripture doesn’t tell us that he knew the gift of a good rain since rain isn’t referred to until Genesis 7:4 (see also Genesis 2:5). Yet as the world’s first farmer, he must’ve known about the essential nature of water for people, plants, and animals. Did he know long days when all was dry and hard? Were there days he prayed for water to bring life to the dust under his feet and in his soul?
With those thoughts in mind, could Adam himself be a picture for us of a life of prayer? For Adam was a man of dust with the breath of God put in him. That’s what I am too – a [wo]man of dust walking on cursed ground trying to breathe in and out prayers to my Jesus, the hope of glory Who remembers that I am but dust (see Colossians 1:27 and Psalm 103:14). And I don’t think I’m alone in this awareness of dust and breath and long days…
As one who’s lived in and through many dusty days where prayers were as numerous as breath, I think that Adam might’ve known and embraced the power of prayer after Eden. Could prayers have been as breath for him too? Just the other day, I learned that YHWH, the name of God first declared to Moses in Leviticus 18:2, means breath.1 YHWH (or Yahweh) was God’s Name that was so holy it wasn’t spoken; it was breathed. Let’s stop here for a breath or two and ponder this…
This breath in can be a prayer.
That breath out, yet another prayer.
“If we think of prayer as the breath in our lungs…we think rightly.”2
Each breath a prayer to YHWH Who breathed life into Adam and does the same for me, even now (see Psalm 150:6). To me, this thought makes the pray without ceasing of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV come alive and real to me in this moment, in this breath. Every breath an acknowledgement that I cannot but God can and will. Each breath is an autonomic realignment of my life by the prayer from my lungs out to my God. The next breath is then a natural response to my Creator God of prayer via a fundamental innate and inherent mechanism of anatomy and physiology. One breath can be a literal return of prayer and praise to my God.
What is needed for life for me in breath can bring life to me in prayer.
Psalm 8:2 CEV expands on this idea with, With praises from children and from tiny infants, you have built a fortress. It makes your enemies silent, and all who turn against you are left speechless. This breath, this praise, this prayer can be a piece of the fortress God has built and holds against whatever enemy is trying to overcome me now. My Sovereign God stands firm, holds fast, gives life, breath, joy, faith, hope, and strength (see Colossians 1:11). He is the strong tower I can run to and be saved (see Proverbs 18:10). Nothing can stand against God, even that next step or breath which seems insurmountable in days full of dust without rain (see Luke 1:37).
On that thought, could Adam’s heart and mind have been full of cloudy memories of the once-was Eden mixed with the rainy tears of the now-cursed ground of regret and remorse? Could these memories have been reinforced with every washing of his body or of the now-dead animal skins he wore to cover his shame? For not even water in abundance could wash away what he’d done and its effect on his children, grandchildren, and onwards to us here in the dust of today (see Exodus 20:5).
Yet, today and every day, I am given opportunity for confession, repentance, and receiving forgiveness that washes away all sin (see 1 John 1:9). No sin is exempt from the gift of Calvary; no one is beyond the grace of the Cross. When I came for salvation nearly 50 years ago, I was washed clean. When I come today for repentance, I receive new waters of grace that restore, renew, and welcome me to walk again with my God until my return to dust, His appearing, or I am not there like Enoch (see Genesis 5:24). (Oh Jesus, please help me to have such a close walk with and constant prayer to You that my life would remind others of the closeness and conversations of Enoch with You.)
Like rain, prayer is a process pointing to and leading towards God. Like rain, prayer is from God. The Holy Spirit prompts the pray-er. Jesus prepares the way for the prayer and pray-er. God provides an answer to the prayer of the pray-er. For example, have you ever had the experience of someone keep coming to mind and with a certain need that you have never thought of before for him? And when you pray this need for this person, the hair on your arms or neck stand up and you know deep inside this was what you were supposed to pray for him at that time and in that way. Then later, you find out your prayer was spot-on in request and timing, even if may have seemed outlandish or far-fetched when you prayed it. If so, then you have experienced the process of prayer made manifest by our Good God’s power.
Effective praying is not just scattering fairy dust across my life or another’s. It is words, love, time, effort, faith, focus, and trust given in a rain of hope. Prayer is a dedicated gift of breath and life to the God Who already knows the situation and will exert His power for what is best to happen. Effective pray-ers do make things happen according to James 5:16. For effective prayers and pray-ers are persistent, passionate, and powerful pursuits and pursuers of God’s glory, His righteousness, and His kingdom (see Matthew 6:33).
The process of effective praying not only waters the dust of another’s soul and life; it does the same for me. Sometimes, I don’t realize just how dusty my own life is until I jump into the waters of prayer for a family member, friend, colleague, or someone I don’t know living across the world from me. Prayer reminds me that I’m Adam’s child. Yet, prayer also reminds me that I am a daughter of the King, called, equipped, and sent to proclaim hope to the dead men walking around me (see Galatians 4:7, Ephesians 2:10, and Matthew 28:18-20).
Effective prayers and pray-ers are not one-time flood events. They can continue for years seemingly without much to show for them or their lives. Yet, at the right time, God will make things happen (and quickly) according to Isaiah 60:22b. A great example of this was Elijah, who prayed for three years for no rain. Therefore, there wasn’t just dust, but drought throughout the land, lives, and hearts of those living there. Likewise, when it was time, God told Elijah to pray for rain and voila’, a torrent of rain starting from a cloud as small as a man’s hand (1 Kings 18:44 HCSB and see James 5:17-18).
Just as that next breath may be a fight for one with lung disease, so might be that next prayer offered by that prayer fighting doubt, fear, or pride. Or that pray-er trying to stop amidst a full calendar, list, home, or office. Or that pray-er rejecting the crushing inadequacy of past mistakes or present expectations. As one who’s been beaten and left face-down by all those challenges, I can say with confidence that God knows, God hears, and God answers as only God can. My job is to listen.
God gives the listening pray-er the breath and the prayer. And He gives the listening pray-er the strength to breathe the prayer with full expectation of Him opening the floodgates of powerful answering. Whether the powerful answering is a challenge conquered or peace in that furnace or lions’ den, God gives Himself to the pray-er in ways beyond understanding or imagination of the prayer given (see Ephesians 3:20-21 and Isaiah 55:8-9). God calls all of us to prayer as pray-ers who love Him and thus, love others in prayer. And here in the dust of today, God can and will bring us showers of hope for now and for eternity as described in Psalm 113:4-9 MSG: God is higher than anything and anyone, outshining everything you can see in the skies. Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned, Surveying his magnificent heavens and earth? He picks up the poor from out of the [dust], rescues the forgotten who’ve been thrown out with the trash, Seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best. He gives childless couples a family, gives them joy as the parents of children. Hallelujah!
Cultivating conversation with my God should be easier than I make it out to be. If I can take the time to talk with my friend on the phone for 30 minutes, why can’t I make the time to talk with my Creator for 5, 10, or 15 minutes in a day? It’s because I don’t value this conversation. My friends tell me that I’m a great listener but is that true for me with my Good Father God? It’s because I don’t value this conversation. So, on it goes for other aspects of the most important conversation of my day – that of prayer. He speaks, I listen. He speaks, I listen, I speak back with His Words. He listens, He acts, I, others, and my world are forever changed. Prayer isn’t a calculation or even an equation; it’s a conversation between a from-dust person with the One Who made her, knows her, and remembers she is but dust with a great and gracious love poured out as rain upon her days (see Psalm 103:14).
Dear Father God,
Thank You that You want me to talk with and listen to You in prayer. Thank You that You hear my prayers and answer with what You have as best. Thank You that You don’t turn away or leave. Please help me to stop and listen to You more and more. Please help me to recognize and turn away from sin so that I might hear and obey You more and more.
In the strong Name of Jesus,
You can find more from Beth Madison at her blog, Soul Scientist.
- Foster, Richard J. 1998, “Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth”, Harper Collins, New York, NY. p. 33. ↩︎
- “Yahweh God”. Facebook post with author unknown on 2/21/22 with Psalm 150:63Chambers, Oswald. 1988. My Utmost for His Highest daily reading excerpt flip chart, Garborg’s Heart ‘N Home, Inc., Bloomington, MN, reading for March 16. ↩︎