Prayer is a lot like relationships. It’s not always easy, it’s not always immediately gratifying, but it gives the gifts, depth, and rewards that are eternal.

I just recently started dating someone and, let me tell you, it is often more than I bargained for. You can read all the books you want, talk to all the people you want, strive for all the emotional health in the world, but you will still have things come up to work out with that person once you are there. When your feet hit the pavement and the theory becomes reality, you still have to choose God, choose that person, and choose to love unconditionally every day. Some days it’s easy. Some days you are completely in love and there’s nothing else you would rather choose. Some days it takes conscious effort. Some days it takes a depth of faithfulness, patience, and generosity that could only come from God Himself.

A couple of years ago, I started to lead one prayer meeting a week. Last year I helped lead two, and each year God has given me the grace for more of what He’s called me into for that time and season. Each time as He gently leads me into more, I’m wondering how I could possibly handle more responsibility or another commitment. I see it in the physical realm, and immediately think of the struggles or lack I might feel. I think to myself, after working all day meeting the needs of my company and clients, I need free time. I need time to relax. I need me-time.

What a lie. That is straight up nonsense.

Hear me: I think time and boundaries are great, but prayer has never left me lacking. It’s always exactly what I need.

When I give myself over to God, when I decide to be consistent with my time and my energy that I give over to Him, He gives me back more than I could ever ask for, hope, or imagine.

Just the same, if we go into a relationship focusing on the lack or what we can get from it, we will come out empty. When I choose to love my boyfriend (or my family, friends, and roommates) without looking for what I can get back, I receive so much more. I feel free to be me and he feels free to be him. We reap what we sow. As I give out authentic love without asking for anything in return, people feel like the fullest version of themselves where they can freely love and give from that place of freedom. When I die to myself and what I think I need, I find life and life abundantly.

Prayer and relationships take intentionality. They require a commitment that goes beyond feelings. Both need a counter-cultural, non-millennial let me see what I can give rather than what I can get kind of generosity. But, they give us the fullness. Prayer gives us the stuff the Bible is talking about. Where your treasure is your heart will be also (Matthew 6:21). Getting to know the God-head, spending time in prayer, and setting yourself before God in worship is the treasure. It’s what we’re all looking for. Jesus is the inheritance, He is the prize.

I’m so thankful for the times I go into prayer, even when I don’t want to, and God meets me with His loving-kindness. He whispers peace into my heart and reminds me of how big He is in comparison to anything I worry about. Persistence and patience are key, as in the waiting He makes us into who we are meant to be. God is so much more concerned with the condition of our hearts rather than what we do or where we go. Faithfulness empowers us to build character and history with God, which is what gives me the grace for any relationship I steward on this earth.

Gratefulness fills me as I think about the love and satisfaction Jesus brings that can’t even compare to romantic butterflies or grade-A dates. I’m pretty lucky in the dating department (I most often feel like I won the lottery) but my boyfriend will never love me as well as God does.

Regardless, the love I give is the love I get. So, I have decided to love from a place of abundance. I’ve decided to give my time and my affection to God, and then to the people around me. I would challenge you to give it a shot yourself. Come to the prayer meetings. See what God has to say to you. See what He can give when you give of yourself, your time, and your energy.

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