Prayer is powerful and an essential part of our spiritual growth, but many of us struggle with praying confidently or praying regularly. If prayer is conversation with God, why does prayer feel so hard sometimes? What gets in the way of having a consistent prayer time? Since prayer connects us with God, and connection with God changes our mindset, knowing how to pray confidently and consistently is incredibly important when it comes to managing negative thoughts and renewing our minds with God’s truth.
In today’s episode you’ll hear from Valerie Woerner, creator of a collection of prayer journals and author of Pray Confidently and Consistently: Finally Let Go of the Things Holding You Back from Your Most Important Conversations. Valerie has some great insights on how to overcome some of our biggest obstacles to consistent prayer, and how to pray confidently so that we can grow closer to God.
WHAT YOU'LL LEARN:
- [2:48] Valerie’s ministry helping women connect with Christ through prayer
- [4:53] How prayer has helped Valerie to grow closer to God in the midst of spiritual obstacles
- [6:59] The mindsets that keep us from connecting to God through prayer
- [13:09] Using prayer to get closer to God after moving away from Him
- [17:52] Moving from a wishlist style of prayer to a conversation with God
- [21:32] Preventing emotions and fears from getting in the way of our prayers
- [25:25] Working through a conflicted connection with God in prayer
- [29:06] Four ways we feel distant from God during hard times
- [34:17] Making prayer a consistent habit
- [40:20] Connecting with God and praying confidently
- [42:13] Starting fresh in your relationship with the Lord
- [44:56] A prayer for us as we walk through this topic of prayer
[2:48] Valerie’s ministry helping women connect with Christ through prayer
Valerie started Val Marie Paper as a wedding invitation company in 2012, after doing wedding planning. As she began her new business, she also found out she was pregnant with her first daughter. She began praying more regularly in response to feeling overwhelmed. Valerie created a prayer journal, and she did not expect it to turn into a business. She thought she was the only one who struggled with focus and distraction when it comes to prayer, which of course seems silly to her now. She started selling the journals, and really leaned into her goal of helping women on their prayer journeys. Valerie has a heart to see women feel confident in their prayer life and sure that He is listening.
[4:53] How prayer has helped Valerie to grow closer to God in the midst of spiritual obstacles
Her mother prayed for her a lot as she was growing up, because Valerie was frequently anxious and worried. Very early on, she remembers learning that God cared about everything. Her mother established that God wanted to hear from her. As Valerie has gone through different seasons, she has learned to stay faithful during hard times. She has continued to pray and draw near to God.
Valerie encourages us to see prayer as a journey in which we are always moving forward. There is always something more God wants to teach us about.
[6:59] The mindsets that keep us from praying confidently and connecting to God
Throughout her book Pray Confidently and Consistently,, Valerie refers to “weights”. These are the mindsets we have about prayer that are going to hold us back. The first one is expectations. If we have faulty expectations of who God is and what He does, and we pray for something that is out of line with Him, we will see the ‘no’ and we will stop praying. We will get discouraged, and we will stop trying to have that conversation.
We may also feel like God can’t handle our issues or concerns, and like we need to “clean this up” before going to Him. We might even feel like we need to come to Him in the “right way”. Some people start to think that they pray about something too much, or they forget to pray with praise first, and many other details. Valerie shares that she thinks God is so much more gracious than we realize, and those details can really paralyze us unnecessarily.
Valerie also shares some tough love with us, as she asks, “Who are we to be like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if I’m going to trust God’?” She points out that He created us; He created everything. He sent his son to die for us. Who are we to analyze whether or not to trust Him? When we do this we are putting our thoughts at the center rather than God. Instead, whenever we put God at the center, we can change the question to ask: “Who am I to not trust God? Who am I to not pour out worship on Him?”
It’s tough, Valerie acknowledges, to process and figure out difficult situations. There is a point in Pray Confidently and Consistently where she encourages us to write out why we should trust God. She notes that working that out can help us to be more authentic in our prayers.
[13:09] How to pray confidently when we feel far from God
Valerie highlights one of her blog posts called Why God Says No. She discusses reasons that we can examine with ourselves and with God, as well as reasons to accept because this is how God works. Valerie notes that it can be so hard to continue to pray confidently and consistently when we feel like God has said “no” to us. We can wonder, “if God didn’t hear this huge thing in the past, why should we pray to him now?”
Again, Valerie hits us with some tough love. She has heard people point to the hardships in the world as proof that God is not listening to their prayers. Similarly, however, plenty of people point to good things in their lives and claim that God answered their prayers. Valerie encourages us to remember that, even in hard times, God is still good.
If we’re struggling in our prayer relationship with God, Valerie admits that it can be so hard to get out of that disconnected mindset but that we have to do something to break through. It might be deciding to read the Bible after the kids go to sleep, she says. It might be pushing through reading a couple chapters even if we aren’t feeling anything. Valerie encourages us to continue to persevere in pursuing God, even in those moments we may not “feel God.”
[17:52] Moving from a wishlist style of prayer to a conversation with God
As someone who has a prayer journal company and literally wants to write out her thoughts, Valerie says she can completely understand the temptation to drill through a list when praying. However, she says that scripture is a great place to get beyond the prayer list. Any scripture can be made into a prayer – it can be a prayer of rejoicing, a prayer of repentance, a prayer of action. If we pull out our Bibles, we will surely pray for things that we wouldn’t if we were just praying from a list.
Valerie shares that she wrote about praying like Paul, because she has been inspired by friends who have prayed for her spiritual growth. Paul prayed for boldness, and Valerie wonders how many of us pray for boldness for our friends to share the gospel with others.
She also suggests reading prayers, and mentions her book Springboard Prayers. This is a book of written-out prayers. While Valerie encourages us to speak from our hearts when praying to God, she admits that there are some things that she never would have prayed for had she not read them somewhere. We can learn from other prayers, whether we read them or hear them in person from others, she says.
[21:32] Preventing emotions and fears from getting in the way of our prayers
Valerie and I discussed the prayer with Jesus in the garden, and it stops me every time because He was so honest with His emotions. We can really let our emotions and fears get in the way of prayer, and in this case Jesus says He will do whatever God wants Him to. It reminded me of Isaiah 58, and I wanted to touch on a few things that align with our discussion about going through the motions and doing the “right things” and then wondering why God is not responding.
Isaiah 58:2-5 says:
Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me.
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?”
I encourage you to read the entire chapter 58, because it goes on to talk about how God wants us to respond differently. We can’t take wrong steps and go through religious motions such as prayer or fasting and expect God to show up in the ways we want.
Isaiah 58:11 also really convicted me:
The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
That is such a beautiful scripture, but we also have to read verses 1-10 to get to verse 11. We sometimes just want to be a well-watered garden and an overflowing spring. To get there, however, we have to do what God asks and take actions in line with that.
[25:25] Working through a conflicted connection with God in prayer
Valerie says that we can’t compartmentalize our faith if we want to get closer to God. Spiritual growth is a holistic thing, and we need to connect with our whole selves. We can’t just go to church on Sundays and be a totally different person the rest of the week.
Valerie notes that it’s easy to get frustrated with God for not answering our prayers without realizing that the rest of our lives are very inconsistent. Scripture talks about unconfessed sin separating us from God, even though we want to say nothing separates us from God. It dampens our fellowship with God if we have sin we are clinging to. She says that if God has called us to obey and we don’t heed his conviction, but we still want our prayers answered, that is inconsistent. It’s like a guy who wants a “good girl”, but who doesn’t want to be a “good guy” himself. We want the peace and joy of God’s presence, but we aren’t willing to follow Him.
However, she cautions that prayer and growing closer to God is not a game of striving and having to check a box. Rather, it is drawing near to Him and letting Him transform us. John 15 talks about the fruit that comes when we abide in the vine. It is not us going off as our own little branch and doing our own work. All that to say, Valerie sees prayer as more important than maybe we even think it is, because that is where we experience the presence of God that is going to transform our lives.
[29:06] Four ways we feel distant from God during hard times
Valerie shares four ways we can distance ourselves from God.
She calls the first one “fleeing through the forest”. We often can feel like we are distant from God simply because we are not choosing Him. We aren’t making choices to spend time with Him. We are called to put our minds on eternal things, and if we are so focused on our jobs or material things, we’re “fleeing through the forest”. We are running away from God, and that is why we are going to experience distance.
She terms the second condition “wandering in the wilderness”. This is drawing a picture from the Israelites, as they wandered for 40 years of testing without knowing what was happening. God may be growing something good in us, and it takes time and patience. We don’t always know what we are becoming–if we are growing fruit, or if we are transforming. Sometimes we feel stuck out there without knowing what we are doing.
The third one is “idling on an island”. We can feel very alone, and like we aren’t hearing anything from God. This can be isolating, because when we are waiting it often feels like we are the only ones. It can seem like everyone else is getting what they prayed for, and we are still sitting here feeling stuck. In addition, it can feel like we can’t move forward until we hear from God, and Valerie says that is not true. We can move forward and continue in our relationship with Him, but it can certainly be difficult to feel unsure.
Valerie calls the fourth condition that keeps us far from God “Deserted in the Desert”. When this happens she says it feels like we have been dropped off and left where we are. Maybe we feel like we were told no, and the door is closed. It feels like we have been abandoned by God, and that can definitely lead to feelings of distance and can make prayer difficult.
In Pray Confidently and Consistently, Valerie shares how each of these conditions call for different responses. We do not have to let those things keep us from knowing God and from using prayer as a way to communicate with God. We can have hope in drawing near to God in these situations as well.
[34:17] Making prayer a consistent habit
Valerie points out that we often feel like we should be able to do this easily and without help. She encourages us, however, to think about tools we can use and how we can set boundaries on our time.
She says we might feel like we should be able to pray without these things, or without a book, or without setting a timer, but it’s okay if we need these things in order to set and keep our habits. It is easy to experience God on a regular basis when we are going to Him on a regular basis. It is going to grow our passion for Him. Setting that time aside can take the pressure off, and we don’t have to make it so hard on ourselves. We’re not limiting ourselves, but rather it is a foundation. We know that, if all else fails, we have that time with God.
[40:20] Connecting with God and praying confidently
What Valerie really wants us to know is that God wants a relationship with us. The fact that we get to have a relationship with the creator of the universe is so incredible. She wonders, “Why would we want to miss out on that? He is gracious, and He doesn’t expect us to come to Him perfectly. We can just start praying, and we can be honest with God. He knows our hearts, and He loves us.”
[42:13] Starting fresh in your relationship with the Lord
I love conversations with guests who are willing to talk about difficult topics and give a little tough love.I also do want to emphasize that there is this very unique and gentle response that the Lord gives to us, even if we feel like we've failed or we aren't good enough to come to God, or we have all kinds of shame or all this baggage, that we can be released. We can start fresh today, no matter where we have been. And that's the beauty of knowing Jesus and having a real relationship with Him.
I pray that our conversation with Valerie today helps you to want to take a fresh look at your prayer life and decide to pray confidently and more consistently.
Friend, I want to help you continue this work that we talked about today in connecting with God in a real way. Val has graciously offered to give away one of her signature prayer journals and her Springboard Prayers book! These are awesome resources and I’m so grateful she is willing to help two women take that next step towards growing in their prayer life.
So if you would like to win one of these signature journals or a copy of her Springboard Prayers book, all you have to do is go over to Instagram. You can follow @aliciamichellecoach and @valmariepaper, go to our profiles, and see the entry details on how to enter this giveaway for the books.
[44:56] A prayer for us as we walk through this topic of prayer
Father, thank You so much. Thank You. Thank You for the opportunity to be able to communicate with You every single day, every single moment about everything – that You're a God who wants to talk to His people; that You're a God who wants honesty. You're not a God who wants perfection and needs to have certain conditions met in order to relate to You and to be with You. You're a God who is right here with us and who is real and who just loves to hear from His children.
I pray for each amazing woman listening to this conversation right now, no matter where she’s at, no matter what's going on in her life, no matter where she’s at in the world. I pray that You would speak to her about what is her specific next step to take to be able to relate to You more closely in prayer. Is that being more consistent in their prayer life? Is it being able to discover some deeper issues that might be hindering them from connecting with you and trusting you through prayer?
Whatever that is, I pray You would show them that and that the words that we had in this conversation would be ways to practically allow them to step forward in a deeper walk with You, no matter what.
I thank You, God, that You answer prayers, period – that You hear us when we pray. We know that, confidently, that that's the truth. We don't have to wonder, we don’t have to hope that our prayers are being heard – they are. You move powerfully when Your people pray. And so we pray, again, that we could turn to You in prayer more often and You would show us how to enrich our prayer lives so we could have a more effective, powerful witness for You in this world. Jesus, we love You so much and it's in Your name we pray. Amen.
CONNECT WITH VALERIE:
ENTER THE GIVEAWAY: WIN ONE OF VALERIE’S SIGNATURE PRAYER JOURNALS OR A COPY OF HER SPRINGBOARD PRAYERS BOOK.
OTHER PODCAST EPISODES ON GROWING CLOSER TO GOD:
- Ep 48: How Knowing God Has Changed My Life (My Story)
- Ep 49: Discovering True Connection with God (Not More Rules or Religion)
- Ep 56: Overcome Loneliness by Developing Real Connection with God, Yourself + Others
- Ep 57: What to Do When You Don’t Feel God + You Doubt Your Faith
- Ep 67: 3 Hidden Spiritual Growth Obstacles That Keep You From Growing Closer to God
- Ep 93: “How can I make spending time with God a priority?”
- Ep 99: 3 Categories of Spiritual Growth Obstacles: Pt 3: Your Relationship with God
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