Today’s blog is written by my precious grandmother, Patti Webb (but you can call her CeeCee like I do). I would not be the Christian woman I am today without the faithful prayer and discipleship of my CeeCee. I pray that her long spiritual journey would encourage you wherever you are on your journey today.
As an octogenarian (a person in their 80s), my memories of prayer go a long way back. The first time I was aware of intentionally praying was when I was a teenager.
My father was career military; therefore, we moved every few years to a new post. I attended whatever church was near our home. When I was fourteen years old, we started attending a church that had a good youth program. Each week we would fill out a checklist to indicate if we had read our Bible and prayed every day. I certainly wanted to check off that I had done each of those. Therefore, each night I would read my Bible and pray. I even learned that some families prayed and asked a blessing for their food at mealtimes. I asked my parents if we could start doing that. They had experienced that practice growing up, so it was an easy “yes” for them. To be truthful, I do not remember any particular method we used to pray during that time.
There came a time when I realized I was not in a right relationship with God. I confessed and acknowledged my sinful state, and I admitted only by accepting Jesus as my Savior could I be forgiven and have a right relationship with God our Father. As a new believer, I continued to pray.
During my 30s, a friend introduced me to journaling. I was struggling with two young children, financial challenges, understanding my role as a young wife, and a desire to grow in my relationship with the Lord. I began by just writing out my thoughts and struggles. But each time I recorded my thoughts, I would record the same struggles over and over again.
Therefore, I started journaling my thoughts as prayers to God. This revolutionized the way I prayed! I began to tell God all my thoughts, my joys, my hurts, my pain, my struggles, my happiness. Suddenly, my relationship with the Father was enriched as I let him know what was going on inside my heart (even though I knew that he knew all my thoughts). “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:1).
Pouring out my thoughts and emotions to God made all the difference. This was a new experience. As I prayed my thoughts to God, he opened my spiritual eyes to see him working in me. He was guiding me to let him handle my emotions such as my anger, my disappointments, my hurts, my challenges. He was leading me to deal with my life in ways that were in line with his word and not my needs. Now this was not an overnight epiphany but a slow deepening of our relationship.
I have to let you know that I still prayed for my children and husband to be popular, smart, successful, “in the right clubs,” and in contact with the right people. But when my boys were in middle school while I was in my 40s, the Lord brought a friend into my life who introduced me to praying Scripture. When I read the prayers in the Bible, it was all about bringing glory to God.
So instead of a specific prayer for this or that, I began to pray specific Scriptures for my husband, my children, others, and myself. I learned there is no Scripture about getting “into the right clubs!” James 4:3 tells us when we ask we do not receive because we ask with wrong motives. Letting Scripture guide my thoughts directed my thoughts toward God’s purposes, not mine. And as the years have gone by, I find my purposes becoming more and more aligned with God’s purposes.
During my 50s, I was introduced to the writings of my friend T.W. Hunt—In God’s Presence (current edition is Pray in Faith) and Disciple’s Prayer Life. T.W. challenged me with his statement that “Prayer does not begin with you. God takes the initiative. He begins the relationship. He comes to you and gives you the desire to spend time with Him in prayer” (In God’s Presence, p. 14). “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, HCSB). I did not have to work on prayer, I learned that God comes to me and puts the desire in my heart to pray.
So now I knew that it was God who initiated prayer in me and that Scripture could guide my thoughts. The epistles of Paul include his prayers for believers (2 Thessalonians 1:11-17; Ephesians 1:17-20, 3:16-21; Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-12). These passages challenged me to pray for spiritual growth for others, not a particular solution to their situations. Again, these Scriptures conclude that all glory goes to God.
My prayers for my family, others, and myself changed drastically. My prayers are laced with requests for spiritual growth, love for God, discernment, and purity. I also ask that they realize it is God’s power that is working in them that make all this possible. Scripture changed my prayers from a selfish focus to a God-honoring focus.
In my 60s, my prayer life started to be stale again. In hindsight, I see that God took the initiative through the book, A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Her honesty about her struggles in prayer, her personal practice, and her solutions guided me back to an even more meaningful relationship with my Father.
In my 50s and 60s, I had opportunities to teach this idea of Scripture-base prayers. As I shared with others, I also grew. I also saw some of my emotions that plagued me in my younger years resurface time and time again. I sensed that I was not depending on the Lord to handle these emotions.
In my late 60s, I saw Philippians 4:6-7 as a pattern to keep emotions from overpowering my life. I would defer to those destructive emotions instead of talking to God about the feelings. With the guidance of other models, I came to practice the following pattern of prayer based on that passage. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV).
- Go to God in prayer first
- Tell Him everything
- Pray with thanksgiving
- Obey what He is commanding
- Believe in His promise
In my 70s, I watched my grandchildren grow in an understanding of building a relationship with the Father through prayer. Now just entering my 80s, I know God is continuing to take the initiative to call me to pray as I listen to my children and grandchildren share about their deepening relationship with the Father. God is still teaching me.