I am honored to welcome Linda Evans Shepherd as my guest blogger today! The following post is excerpted from her new book “Experiencing God’s Presence: Learning to Listen While You Pray.”
Today I have a vibrant relationship with God, but this was not always the case. Though I’ve had a special love for the Lord since childhood, I felt lonely. I knew I could talk to him in my heart, but as far as I could tell, God either couldn’t or wouldn’t talk back, because I’d decided, God is silent, and his silence felt deafening.
Of course I knew God used the Bible to guide my life, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there had to be more. I longed for something beyond my one-sided relationship with him, to see him, to hear him, face-to-face. But I figured that wouldn’t happen until I graduated to heaven, and I wasn’t ready for that. I felt stuck because until then, my timid, little prayers had not seemed to connect me to God on a deeper level.
For starters, I wasn’t even sure how to pray correctly, effectively or in a way that helped me feel the warmth of God’s presence. It seemed to me that my prayers were only going as high as the ceiling. That’s why I set out on a quest to try to figure out how to crack the prayer code. Then the day came when I found myself listening to a speaker who explained that what I really needed to do was to create an elaborate list of requests to daily bring before the Lord. The speaker even demonstrated a clever notebook she’d developed that would help me organize my list. “The exciting part,” she explained, “Is getting to put a checkmark next to the requests as God answers.”
I was intrigued, so I dutifully bought the notebook and made my list, then carefully recited it to the Lord for an entire month. But I felt like I was merely reciting a shopping list to God. I couldn’t help but shake my head and grin; for if my husband only communicated with me through a list of everything he wanted me to do, I would certainly get annoyed.
Not wanting to annoy God, I abandoned my list until a couple of years later when I happened to find the notebook in the bottom of a drawer. When I opened it and read through my original requests, I was amazed that I was able to pull out my pen and put a checkmark next to every petition I’d jotted down two years earlier. So despite the fact that I’d been worried that my prayer list bored God, I realized God had not only heard my prayers, he had graciously responded with many miraculous results, even long after I’d forgotten to pray. This exercise proved to me that I could boldly come to his throne of grace, even when I came with a long recital of prayer requests.
Still I felt God was too majestic and powerful for me to think of him only as my ‘heavenly bag-boy’ and I knew my prayer life had a ways to grow if I were to develop the vibrant two-way relationship I longed to have with the Lord of the Universe.
Today, though I still keep prayer lists, I no longer recite them daily. However, I do review and update them monthly, and I do so enjoy checking off his answers.
However, I’m glad my prayer journey didn’t get lost in my lists, but continued as I pushed to connect with God. These days, I can tell you that my prayer times bring me the closeness to God I’d longed for. I’ve discovered that as I’ve reached for a more vibrant friendship with God, he reached right back with his presence. Not only has he given me a deepening relationship with him, he’s given me answered prayers, joy and peace, and most importantly, he’s given me his presence and allows me to hear his loving voice.
These benefits to going deeper with God are available to all who push into his presence and learn how to recognize his voice.
Linda is the, founder and leader of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and President of the non-profit ministry Right to the Heart. She oversees the publication of Finding God Daily, an online devotional as well as Thinking About Suicide, a ministry for the hurting. Linda has authored almost 30 books including co-authoring the bestselling Share Jesus Without Fear. She’s married to Paul and has two children. You can follow her blog here.