To say “ivy blanketed the landscape” conjures the image of a manicured English garden. No, the summer I yanked the overgrown invader from my new backyard, I uncovered a sculpture, a chaise lounge, and a 10-ft long fence from beneath its tangled vines.
A formidable task, its reward was a blank slate on which to plant my garden.
Who knew this arthritis-inducing aspect of the work — uprooting, by hand, ivy stalks the diameter of small trees — would be the easy part of the process? Persistence and hard work were the sole requirements.
Learning to garden proved the more difficult task.
I read books. I searched the internet. I visited nurseries and garden centers. I asked experts. But the more information I took in, the more confused I became.
I read about plant varieties, the soils each likes, how to amend the soil to meet those requirements, the amount of sunlight each prefers, how often to water…
Hospitals discharge newborns with fewer instructions.
I knew there was a right way to garden — all the books said so. And my grandmother’s favorite refrain repeated in my head: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”
For all my good intentions, and in spite of my desire for a beautiful garden, the sheer volume of instructions paralyzed me.
I didn’t want to mess up. What if I spent the time, money, and energy to put plants in the ground, and then miswatered them? Or planted them in the wrong place? What if the flowers thrived but looked ugly together?
As the first frost approached, my “garden” contained only three small plants.
A Seedling Prayer Life
My prayer life once resembled my fruitless flower garden attempts.
I excelled at other aspects of the Christian lifestyle. I volunteered at church, attended Bible studies, and visited shut-ins. But these felt like top-dressing; they required merely showing up and doing the work.
I’d seen others’ walks with God and wanted mine to look similar. But I didn’t know how to achieve it.
Prayer seemed key, but it eluded me.
As with garden advice, prayer resources seemed infinite. I read the Bible. I searched books and websites. I visited churches, and I consulted experts. But the details bewildered me.
Let’s face it, poor communication with our Heavenly Father doesn’t just mean lost money and wasted time, as with a garden; it means a lost opportunity to cultivate a relationship with God.
We won’t merely forego a beautiful backyard, we’ll forfeit the chance to have our whole lives colored with God’s joy and peace.
So, how do we get this prayer thing right?
Look to the Garden
How did I manage to get unstuck?
I asked an avid gardener friend for help. His advice: “buy some plants and put them in the ground.”
But where should I plant them?
“What’s the tag say?”
“Okay. Pick the sunniest spot in your yard and plunk them in the ground.”
But where, there?
What if they don’t look nice?
Then, how do I know when to water them?
“Water them when they get dry.”
He made it sound so easy. I wanted to believe him, but it felt wrong. Because all the experts said…
Except, this man was no slouch when it came to gardening; his backyard rivaled most public gardens.
Are you sure there’s nothing more to it?
“Except for a few principles, most books are filled with opinion. Plants are forgiving. Start small and keep at it. You’ll figure it out.”
How to Make Your Prayer Life Flourish
It’s a lovely story, but how do we pray? More to the point, how should we pray?
Because if you have difficulty praying, I suspect you think there’s a right way to pray, but you’re not sure what it is, and don’t want to get it wrong.
Could this be part of Satan’s plan? If we’re plagued with worry about how to approach our Heavenly Father, it’s improbable we’ll approach Him at all.
But maybe prayer doesn’t have to be difficult.
The Purpose of Prayer
The reasons we pray vary, as do the ways we can pray; but the purpose of prayer remains constant. We pray to communicate with our Heavenly Father.
Now, communication with Jehovah isn’t the same as with our friends and family, but it’s not a bad place to start. Remember my gardener friend’s advice? Just stick that plant in the ground.
Don’t forget, God wants us to communicate with Him, and He longs to give us wisdom. Admit you’re not sure what prayer should look like, and ask for His assistance. Trust Him to guide you in the process as you nourish your relationship with Him. Even when you’re not sure what to pray, His Holy Spirit intervenes on our behalf. (Matthew 7:7-8; James 1:5; Proverbs 3:5; Romans 8:26).
The Bible mentions a few prayer principles. But, as with gardening, the first step isn’t to learn everything there is to know before you begin. The first step is to begin. Start small and keep at it. God is forgiving. And you’ll figure it out.
What one thing do we need to do to make our prayer life flourish? Pray!
Like the roots of newly planted flowers, our relationship with God will grow deeper and stronger over time when we pray. And before you know it, you’ll experience the sweet blossoms of His loving presence daily.