Dear Christian Counselor:
In the 12-step program, they refer to “conscious contact with God,” and I feel most of my prayer falls into this category. It’s more a constant conversation or knowing between us vs. a dedicated time of focused prayer. Is this okay? Does God change his mind based on our prayers?
I’m glad you are asking questions about prayer because that means you are not content to do life in your own strength. There are probably as many approaches to prayer as there are praying people. Jesus spoke spontaneously, in the intimate, immediate way you are describing. But He also made a conscious effort to spend time alone with God. As a parent, I appreciate it when my children touch base with me in the middle of their busy lives via text or Facebook. But I also crave their individual focused presence. That’s an area you could explore with God. A recent book called A Praying Life by Paul Miller might help get you started.
There are several statements in Scripture concerning the constancy of God’s character, that He is not capricious or changeable. But there are other illustrations of the value of repentance and prayer which seem to indicate that God is swayed by His people’s pleas (one quick example: Amos 7:2-3). When the disciples questioned Jesus about prayer, He gave them a pattern to follow which included asking God to provide for their needs, accept their remorse and keep them from evil. I don’t think this means God is surprised or changed by our prayers. Rather, I think He has given us the wonderful privilege of being employed in His work as effective instruments in His hands. This is certainly true when we show mercy or do justice in His name. Why would it not also be true when we pray in His name?