What kind of a year, or month, or week have you had? Has it been…

physically exhausting?
emotionally depleting?
spiritually draining?
socially depressing?
relationally devastating?
professionally discouraging?
financially challenging?

Do you long to just sit down and talk to someone about it? Someone who is a wise, caring, attentive listener? Someone with integrity, who can keep confidences? Someone who won’t silently smirk at your stupidity or ignorance but will actually love you while patiently listening?

There are times my heart aches to have someone to talk to about me…and them…and it…and you. So I carve out time to get alone, curl up in my easy chair by the fire, and imagine Jesus sitting there in another chair opposite me. And I just talk to Him…that is the privilege we call prayer.

I never cease to be amazed that Jesus invites you and me, as His children and in His name…to come into His Father’s presence, to crawl up into His lap by faith, to put our head on His shoulder of strength, to feel His loving arms of protection around us, and to pour out our hearts.

As God’s only Son, Jesus took advantage of this same privilege of prayer. His heart also must have ached to talk to His heavenly Father. He too needed a loving listener, Someone He could trust with His innermost thoughts and feelings. Someone who would never betray or deny Him — which is one reason He prayed when there was no special reason to pray, except that He simply wanted to talk. So He…

prayed privately,
prayed publicly,
prayed alone,
prayed with friends,
prayed in crowds…
prayed standing,
prayed sitting,
prayed kneeling,
prayed on His face…
prayed early in the morning,
prayed late in the evening,
prayed during the day,
prayed all night.
Jesus prayed! He loved to talk to His Father.

I love to talk to Him too.

Do you ever get an opportunity to talk with someone you’ve just been dying to talk with, then when the time comes, you can’t think of anything to say?

That has happened to me many, many times in prayer. It’s amazing: how can I love God so much and long to talk with Him so much, yet be so tongue-tied in His presence? I wonder…could that be a sign that I am in His presence? Is He inviting me just to be quiet for a few moments…to simply be still, as the words of this beloved old hymn suggest?

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Reclothe us in our rightful mind;
In purer lives Thy ser vice find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm

In the frantic, frenzied rush that is my typical day, it takes time to be still in His presence. In fact, I’ve found that one of the secrets to loosening my tongue in order to carry on a meaningful conversation with Him is just time — time when I don’t have a deadline looming. Or a clock to watch. Or the next thing on my schedule to do. It takes time to settle my mind on the Eternal and just worship Him for who He is as my prayer begins

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Make sure there is no sin between you and your Father, robbing you of the sweetness of reveling in His presence. Like me, if you’ve been to the Cross and received Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you’re forgiven. But sin is a constant presence in our lives, and in order to maintain a clear channel of communication with the Father, we need to confess the mistakes we’ve made, the sins we’ve committed.

So go ahead. You pray. Obviously, I won’t be listening. This kind of prayer is very private. You may want to write down on a piece of paper the sins you are naming. (If you’re like me you may need several sheets of paper!) Then, since you committed them one by one, when you pray, make sure you name them one by one. And remember too…confess your own sin, not somebody else’s.

When you’ve finished your confession, take the paper where you’ve recorded your sins by the names God gives each one, then burn or tear up the paper. Now, let’s meditate on these words together…

There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he,
Wash all my sins away

To be honest, even after I confess my sin, I sometimes have trouble forgiving myself and letting go of it. It tends to haunt me with regret and remorse. I’ve learned by hard experience that self-flagellation can be devil-inspired. So now, when Satan comes to remind me that I am a weakling in prayer, I tell him, Yes, I have been. But I have taken my prayerlessness and my pride to the Cross, and I know my sin is forgiven and my guilt has been atoned for.

What sin is Satan trying to remind you of? Is it lying or adultery or abortion or jealousy or bitterness or resentment or unforgiveness or child molestation or abuse? Is it ingratitude or prayerlessness or pridefulness or casualness or hypocrisy or a critical spirit? When Satan comes to remind you of your sin, remind him that your sin has been forgiven and your guilt has been atoned for — at the Cross! It has been covered by the blood of Jesus, and you bear it no more! When Satan tries to dig up your forgiven past, settle into your quiet place of prayer and meditate on the words of yet another old hymn:

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Despite all the promises and reminders, sometimes the stain of my sin seems so repugnant and the gift of His grace seems so extravagant that I can hardly believe He bestows it on us ruined sinners so freely. But He does. His Word tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Still, I sometimes find myself asking, Lord, did we hear You right? Did You say all unrighteousness? Do You mean all my sin, past, present, and future? Even if it’s sin I consider little and insignificant, like gossip; or medium-sized, like losing my temper; or great big, like murder and adultery and stealing? Did You really mean all my sin is forgiven?

Then I hear Him whispering to my heart — listen, and you may hear him too: “Anne, the blood of Jesus…purifies you from all sin….In him you have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace….Because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away your sins….Christ came into the world….You have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all….The Holy Spirit also testifies to you about this….Your sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Hearing these words in my heart, I cry out in gratitude, Thank You! Thank You! Thank You, dear Jesus, for cleansing me and washing me by Your blood! Based on Your Word, I know I am clean and forgiven. Amen.

Whew! I feel better. Like I’ve had a shower after a strenuous workout! Now…now, I’m finally ready to really talk to Him. And I sense that He is waiting, listening, gently inviting: Therefore, Anne, since you have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for you through the curtain, that is, his body, and since you have a great priest over the house of God, draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having your heart sprinkled to cleanse you from a guilty conscience.

Excerpt from I Saw the Lord by Anne Graham Lotz
Copyright © 2006 by Anne Graham Lotz, published by Zondervan, used by permission.