So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
Daniel 9:3 (NIV)
Like most couples I know, Wendy and I are very different in temperament. Along this life journey, I’ve observed that there is a lot of truth to the adage that opposites attract. Most couples I’ve ever known have been very different. In general, I think this makes for good partnerships between people who need the strengths of their husband or wife to help make up for weaknesses in their own temperaments. Like Rocky explained about his love for Adrian: “I got gaps. She got gaps. Together, we fill gaps, y’know?”
The challenge comes when our differences become buried seeds of anger and bitterness rather than the grateful acknowledgment that, despite being annoying, our differences can help one another understand the goodness of other ways of thinking, communicating, and being.
Just last night, there arose a flash of conflict between Wendy and me rooted in the stark difference in the way we think and operate. Wendy is an external processor who likes to talk through even the smallest of daily decisions. I am an internal processor who takes a casual remark, has an internal conversation about it in my head, and then outputs an assumption of what was meant. There are positives and negatives to both external and internal processing. If we can graciously overcome our occasionally acute annoyances with our differences, we can gratefully learn from one another.
In my spiritual journey, I’ve always operated from the foundational understanding that prayer is a conversation of spirit between me and God. Conversations between me and Wendy can look very different at different moments. We often have quick, utility conversations about what needs to be done and who is doing what on the task list. We regularly have casual conversations about the news of the day or something one of us heard on a podcast. We occasionally have rather intense “come to Jesus” conversations when an intimate issue needs to be confronted between us. When time and space allow, we have deeply personal conversations about where each of us is spiritually, emotionally, physically, and/or relationally. Each conversation can look very different.
In the same way, I’ve always found that conversations with God take different forms at different moments. I’ve written about “popcorn prayers” that get uttered at the moment like popping my head into Wendy’s office to ask what she was thinking for dinner. I also write letters to God because writing gives me time to think and process and I find that there’s something good for me in physically getting my thoughts out on a page.
Daniel’s prayer in today’s chapter jumped out at me as I read it today, not for the words, but for the pattern:
- He began by preparing himself with humility that included fasting and ritual before he even launched into his conversation (vs. 3).
- He began, just like the Chain Reaction of Praise, with words of praise and worship acknowledging God’s greatness and love (vs. 4).
- He then launches into an honest confession of the many ways he and his people have fallen short and an acknowledgment of the consequences of those sins. (vss. 5-14).
- As he confesses, Daniel continues to recognize God’s righteousness, mercy, forgiveness, and deliverance (vs. 7, 9, 15).
- It is only after all of this that Daniel utters his actual petition before God (vss. 16-19).
As I meditated on this in the quiet this morning, I thought Daniel’s prayer to be a great template I can follow when I am bringing emotional and heartfelt requests to God. I could even use this acrostic:
Prepare with humility
Raise up words of praise and worship
Acknowledge God’s righteousness, love, and mercy
Yield my failures and faults in confession
Esteem God’s goodness as you confess and…
Request your needs and desires
Marriage has taught me that improving communication is always an opportunity for improvement no matter how long we’ve been in the relationship. The same is true of my relationship with God. I can always improve my communication, and sometimes that happens by learning a new pattern of prayer.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.