Prayer Conditioning Warms Hearts!

Posted by on Jul 17, 2021 in Signboard | 0 comments

Our signboard said:




Admittedly, this message isn’t very original.  The “Prayer Conditioning” pun is in any “church signboard” book or hashtag.  In fact, this message was posted in 2018 and we wrote about it (How’s Your Prayer Conditioning?“)  But the message is worth repeating, and it needs some fresh thought.  So we’ll post a fresh article about it (check out the above link to dive deeper).


Conditioned to Pray

We generally think of “prayer” as a pious act where we close our eyes, fold our hands,  say a lot of fluffy cliches, and then think that God will pat our heads and give us everything we asked for.  But prayer is deeper than that; it’s not just an isolated act.  It’s a “condition.”  God calls us to be “in relationship” with Him.  Paul says that we should “Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)    That doesn’t mean that we should close our eyes while driving a car!   It means that we always sense God’s presence.  We’re not walking alone, but we somehow know that God is “walking” with us… that He knows our needs, sees the dangers around us, and loves us enough to use our circumstances to bring us closer to Him.  It means that we trust that God wants to hear from us.

There’s a story about a government official named Nehemiah.  It’s in (surprise, surprise!) the book of Nehemiah.  The Isrealites had been exiled to Babylon.  Nehemiah was one of those exiles, and he somehow ended up serving as the king’s cupbearer (this was the guy who tasted anything that was to be served to the king…. if he survived, it was safe for the king to eat). 

Nehemiah was “Prayer Conditioned.”  Whenever he got bad news, his first reaction was to pray.  To him, God was always in the details of his life.  God was always concerned about Nehemiah’s circumstances and wanted to hear from him.  In chapter 1, Nehemiah got some bad news about the things that were happening back in Jerusalem.  The city was in ruins and the remnant who survived the exile to remain in Jerusalem was “in great trouble and disgrace.” This made Nehemiah really sad, and he wanted to do go to Jerusalem and do something about it.  But there was this little problem; he was a captive in Babylon, ruled by an absolute monarch, and he needed permission (and some good will from the king) in order to make this journey.  He was in a position to talk to the king, but this could be dangerous.

So what did Nehemiah do?  His immediate response to the bad news and to his situation was to pray.  Yep.  Verse 4 tells about how the bad news made him cry, and verse 5 records his prayer.  There’s nothing between verse 4 and 5.  No “woe is me,” no fear, no blame game.  It goes from difficult circumstances to heartfelt prayer.  Yes, the prayer (recorded in verses 4 to 10) used a lot of words and included confession, praise, intercession, and some of the other stuff that we would put into a “formal” prayer.   But regardless of the words he used, Nehemiah’s immediate response was to turn to God.  His faith and previous experience had “conditioned” him to see God as his first reaction.

Chapter 2 records another instance of Nehemiah’s kneejerk reaction to turn to God.  One day he was in the throne room doing his thing by tasting the king’s wine.  The whole day he looked sad; his face showed he was in anguish.  Nehemiah was thinking about the situation in Jerusalem.  The king was thinking that Nehemiah had just tasted some of the wine that was about to be handed to him… was it safe?  Did this wine make Nehemiah sick???  So the king asked Nehemiah, “are you ok???”

Nehemiah had a choice.  He could take the easy route by answering the question that was on the king’s mind. He could have said, “Don’t worry O wonderful gracious king. Your servant is in perfect health.  This wine is really good.  Your majesty will enjoy it and be strengthened by its nourishment.”  Or, he could have taken advantage of the king’s question to tell him what he was really thinking.  Tough decision.  So what did Nehemiah do?  He prayed!  Verse 4 records the king’s question, verse 5 says that Nehemiah prayed and then answered the king’s question (by telling him what was really getting him down).  Verse 5 doesn’t contain any fluffy words; it doesn’t even record the prayer.  It simply says, “Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king.” To Nehemiah, saying a quick prayer was like taking a deep breath.  Prayer is his first reaction.  Nehemiah was conditioned to prayer.  His “Prayer Conditioning” was working.


Cold Heart…

If God isn’t the first thing that pops into mind when we come face to face with a tough decision or difficult situation, our reaction can be negative.  We leave out God and turn to ourselves (in fact, “worry” is when we “pray to ourselves”…).  Leaving God out of the situation may cause us to worry and feel that we’re inadequate; that WE are going to fail.  It may make us angry at the situation.  It may make us angry at someone who we thought caused the situation.

Or, we might go in the opposite  direction.  We may think that WE can grab the bull by the horns and take on the challenge.  If things turn out the way we wanted, we might become prideful and look down on others.  Even if things turn out good, we still might think that we could have done better; we’re nagged by regrets. 

When we don’t turn to God, we’re left with a “cold” heart.  Even if things turn out ok, our relationships with God, others, and with ourselves may still may suffer. 


Warm Heart…

But if our first response is to turn to God, we’re put on a path that will bring us closer to God.  There’s another “cliche” signboard message:  If God’s your co-pilot, swap seats!”   When we enter a difficult situation, “Prayer Conditioning” may not guarantee that we’ll get the destination we expect, but it will guarantee that the journey will be fruitful.  When we let God be the “pilot” instead of “co-pilot”, the decisions are left to Him; we just need to figure out how to follow Him and to get the most out of where He brings us.

Galatians 5 talks about the “Fruits of the Spirit.”  When we’re “Prayer Conditioned” and looking towards God in every situation, our hearts are “warmed” by things like:

Self Control.

Prayer Conditioning results in a “Warm Heart”: no regrets, closer to God, more forgiving, more loving, less prideful.   


How’s your Prayer Conditioning???


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