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It’s hard not to approach prayer that way. As if the substance of prayer is my getting my words out, telling the Lord what is on my heart, spiritually “venting” what’s in me to God. I’m not suggesting that there is not a place for that in my praying. Any reading through the Psalms will give substantial support for thinking of prayer as a God-directed cathartic experience. We pour out our hearts to God. So, I’m not suggesting that we stop doing that.

I’m just thinking about what else could or should or might be part of my experience of prayer. I keep thinking how wonderful it is to have moments of prayer that are not just monologue–that prayer might actually be more two-way communication between two individuals. A real dialogue between me and God.

In his short epistle, James calls attention to Elijah who, as a “man with a nature like ours,” prayed and the sky withheld its rain for three-and-a-half years, and then he prayed and the sky poured rain (James 5:17). (That’s how we pray, huh? Ha! I don’t see such answers to my prayers!) So what are we to make of this pray-er? How are we to follow his example?

If you go back to 1 Kings 18, you get in on the story of Elijah’s well-known prayer. When it comes down to praying for rain, Elijah’s on a mountain and sends his servant to see if there is any evidence of rain on the way on the horizon. There is none. And Elijah sends his servant seven times to check. (Personally, I might have hung in there for a round or two of praying and looking, but seven times? Really?) Finally, the rain does come (18:42-45).

What are we to make of this? Did Elijah just wear God down? Did he prevail over the Almighty? Did Elijah’s monologue finally exasperate God so much that the Lord just had to give in? I doubt it.

What leads me to think differently is what we find in 1 Kings 18:1. There God tells Elijah that he is going to send rain. This means that Elijah’s praying on the mountain was part of an ongoing dialogue. Elijah was not trying to get God to listen to him through a prolonged monologue, but Elijah was participating with God through an extended dialogue.

Elijah’s praying was Elijah’s way of joining God in what God wanted to do in light of what the Lord had already communicated to him. Elijah’s effective praying was woven into and flowed out of a dialogue.

I just wonder what kinds of things might happen in the world around us if we approached prayer not so much as a monologue directed at God but a dialogue with God.


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