I'm beginning to think praying without reading God's word is a lot like asking my husband, "Does this dress make me look fat?" In both cases, you will never know if the answer you got is the Truth.
This is the nugget that came after weeks of struggling with the purpose of prayer, what prayer should look like and how we seem to be so bad at prayer. It came from realizing that we spend a lot of time having one way conversations with God which may give God lots of information from us but is about as satisfactory as having a monologue with my husband. I get to use all my words, but I have no idea what he thinks or feels. There is no shared experience in a monologue. It doesn't build intimacy it just delivers information. And God doesn't need our information, He already has it. But He wants our intimacy, He wants a relationship.
But how does God speak to me? I have never heard His voice, at least not audibly. I have definitely seen His fingerprints in my thoughts, heard His spirit in a song of worship, and experienced His comfort. These are the words of God that most of us hold dear to our hearts, that we use as a reminder of God when we are in a place of doubt.
As I am reading more and more about prayer, I have been confronted by what a horrible listener I am when it comes to God. I am pretty good about allowing a few moments of quiet reflection when I pray for wisdom or guidance, hoping that God will give me the directions I need in that moment. But I am not utilizing God's actual Words enough, His written Word, His Holy letter to me. I will let days go by before I pick up my Bible and rarely do I think of it as a part of my prayer life. That the Bible is God's word to and for me. That He is speaking, quite literally, in the Bible.
I can only imagine how many times I would reread a letter my spouse gave me if I could never hear his voice again. How if my husband left me a book with instructions, words of encouragement, and the history of his creation, I would devour it over and over again just to hold him close for a few minutes.
And yet, I don't hold God's word so dear. I am learning to. I am reading the whole Bible this year with friends, though I am often off schedule and hurrying to catch back up to the schedule. I am reading. I have also committed to reading through the Bible again next year. I am doing this because I want God's word to be dear to me. I want to know it so well that it is my first place of comfort on a bad day and the first place I turn for guidance when I have a decision to make. I want to meditate on it day and night and teach it to my children. I want to know what God is saying to me, to know His word so well that I will know the Truth when I hear it and can discern the wheat from the chaff.
I never want to find out that what I thought had been God "speaking" in my head was rubbish that I did not recognize because I did not know God's voice. I want to know that the answers I hear to my prayers is the Truth.