Listen: Tania Harris chats to Clare Bruce about prayer. Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde
There’s a myth about prayer that stops many people from talking to God—and it takes a few different forms.
For some, it’s a belief that you’d better behave well, read your Bible several times and earn a few spiritual ‘brownie points’, if you want to approach God. For others, it’s a sort of superstition that you have to choose the right place or time or position to communicate properly with their Creator. Still others think you have to use a special language or formula for prayer to really ‘work’.
None of these myths are true, says Tania Harris.
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Tania’s a speaker and a blogger at ‘God Conversations’, and has made it her life mission to encourage people to talk to God. In a chat with Hope 103.2, she said nobody is unqualified to pray.
With a tongue-in-cheek joke, she started by saying, “you have to have kept all of the commandments, all of your life,” then got serious, insisting that “in a very simple fashion, prayer is just talking to God”.
“We use communication in any relationship,” she said. “That’s a great place to start. Sometimes I think people get confused with technique of praying, versus the relationship. “We’re talking to God and listening to what He’s saying to us. We’re building relationship.”
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There’s No ‘Correct’ Time and Place for Prayer
It may come as a relief to some that Tania, who constantly speaks and writes about prayer and hearing God’s voice, is actually no good at sitting and praying for hours in one spot herself. She’s just not one of those people.
“There are some people who can pray for hours, and you think, ‘I could never do that’, and then we just feel like a failure,” she said.
“It’s an act of faith. We cannot see the spiritual realm but I know that it makes a difference.”
“But it’s about finding what works for your personality, and about activating a sense of the presence of God wherever you are – if you’re doing the dishes, or driving in the car to work, for example. It’s like any relationship: there’s this ongoing sense of ‘God, you’re there, I trust you, can you help me with this? Can you speak to me about that? Can you bless that person? Can you make a difference in that news item on the TV.’
“We need to carve out time alone specifically for God, but at the same time, there’s a much more wholistic approach to prayer, I think, that is helpful.”
Her best times for prayer are when she’s jogging, or paddling a kayak, or swimming: “For me, being active helps me to focus.”
Yes, You Can Pray for the World
As well as building our relationship with God, another purpose of prayer is to change the world—and there’s nothing we can’t pray about; even the big, seemingly impossible world issues, says Tania.
“Our world has a spiritual realm,” she said. “There are things going on behind the scenes. And Jesus has given us the authority to make a difference. And so sometimes I see a news item on the TV, there’s something happening in the Middle East, and I’m sending up a prayer. It’s an act of faith. We cannot see the spiritual realm but I know that it makes a difference.”
The most effective prayers, she said, are when we pray for things that are dearest to God’s heart. We can find out what these things are, by reading God’s word, getting to know his character, and listening to his promptings.
…And Praying for First World Problems is OK Too
God does care about our small, everyday, first world problems, says Tania. And it’s something that still surprises her, even after years of seeing prayers answered.
Once, she felt God was giving her an opportunity to ask for a gift. The long-held desire she prayed for, was to go skiing in the Swiss Alps. To her surprise, the prayer was answered soon after, when she got a job opportunity that involved her travelling to Switzerland, and her dream came true.
“I remember thinking, God, you’re amazing, you answer prayer and you answer the desires of our heart,” Tania said. “It doesn’t mean that God is a ‘put your ticket in and get something out’ God. It’s not like that. It’s a relationship. And like in any relationship there’s giving, and receiving, there’s trust and communication. This is a father, a parent who loves to give good gifts. He loves to show His goodness and provision.”
The best way to have this kind of spiritual life is to bring our hearts to God through the grace of Jesus, and seek God for what He wants to do in the world.
“It just takes a heart that positions itself to say, ‘God, I want to walk this journey with you, I want to bring your kingdom to earth, I want to partner with you in making a difference on the planet, let’s get to know one another and do this together… that’s the context for every prayer that we pray,” Tania said.