Ever since our youngest grandson, Joseph, was about two years old, he has sometimes talked to an imaginary friend. Not all the time, mind you, but at strategic times in the ongoing important affairs of his life he would talk to his friend and confidant Billy Bob Joe. He would do this when he came to visit us at the farm, and he would do this at home and elsewhere. We accepted this as a normal part of his little boy growing up years; and we made no “big deal” of these conversations because this was never something he did all the time, only once in a while. He has lost his attachment now that he is older, but he still has fond memories of Billy Bob Joe. I’m sure that psychologists have volumes of studies in these matters, and they are probably not alarmed at the innocence of this activity in early childhood. Only later in life does it become a problem.

I think it interesting that some children experience these fantasies while some do not. As a kid I can not remember having such a “friend,” but my younger brother did; and I well remember that Jim would talk to his friend “Pefaf.” It was no big concern, and Pefaf finally went away. Our daughter, Rebecca, as a little child, had no such imaginary friend, but our son, Mark, did. Often he would talk to “The Professor.” We all still laugh and enjoy good memories of his talks with The Professor. He vividly remembers the day The Professor left him for good. The occasion was that he was in big trouble with me for some major offence and he was about to receive a spanking. The Professor told him to put a book inside his pants; but his big sister “squealed” on him. When I discovered the “cover-up,” Mark blamed it on The Professor. Of course I didn’t buy it but Mark thought The Professor had betrayed him, so he told him good-bye forever. And then once in my career as a school principal, I remember we had a fourth grader who would talk to a piece of string when he took classroom tests. It didn’t do him any good however; the string didn’t know the answers either.

These “conversations with friends” got me to thinking about the Christian experience of talking to our best friend Jesus. In this case, however, He certainly is no imaginary friend, and we call this experience prayer. Prayer is simply talking to God, and one does not outgrow the need for prayer, nor is it a childhood fantasy. Jesus prayed, he taught his disciples to pray, and he did not consider it some idle activity. He considered it vital for a believer’s relationship with the Lord. The Bible, from “cover to cover,” emphasizes the importance and necessity of prayer. In Genesis, Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the garden, while the final words in Revelation are John’s prayer for Jesus to return (Maranatha!). In between are many instructions, admonitions and examples of prayer. Prayer is important to us because it is important to God (Phil. 4:6; 1 Thes. 5:17).

Statesmen, theologians, commoners, and children all talk with God. Prayers from powerful men in state and national governments are recorded for our consideration. Our own government was born in an atmosphere of acknowledging God through prayer. Benjamin Franklin offered a motion for daily prayers in the Continental Congress assembled to frame the U. S. Constitution after the Revolutionary War. In commenting on the necessity of prayers in Congress he said, “We are assured that except Jehovah build the house they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.” Times have certainly changed haven’t they? May God forgive us and heal our land (2 Chr. 7:14)!

Recently, I have been studying the prayer life of Daniel, the O.T. prophet. Daniel served over 2500 years ago as the number two man in the governments of two different world powers, Babylon and Persia. Esteemed by other prophets (Ezek. 14:20; Ezek. 28:3) and by Jesus himself (Matt. 24:15), Daniel represented the epitome of a quality character that pleases God. He “distinguished himself… because he possessed an extraordinary spirit” (Dan. 6:3a). The marks of his integrity were abundant: an excellent attitude, faithfulness in duty, a life of personal purity, and a consistent walk with God. What was it that engraved these marks of integrity in his life? I believe it was his consistent, faithful, disciplined prayer life. For example, upon learning that he would be cast into the lion’s den if he petitioned anyone except the king, Daniel prayed anyway because that was his practice. The Bible says, “He got down on his knees…and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously” (Dan. 6:10). While we know that we cannot surprise God with our needs, or bring requests to Him that He hadn’t thought of, one might wonder why Daniel (or any of us) prays. While there may be many answers to this question, we know that prayer focuses on our dependence upon God for everything, and it allows God to position us to see things as He sees them. Philip Yancy observed, “I need prayer in order to place myself within the force field of God’s love.”

Chuck Swindoll once said, “If you are not satisfied with your prayer life you have nowhere to go but up.” (no pun intended) He went on to offer several suggestions to strengthen our prayer life so that a consistency develops:

  1. Express worship to God by praising Him for His marvelous attributes
  2. Confess your sins and your sorrow for them
  3. Thank God for who He is, especially relating to what’s happening in your life
  4. Bring your concerns for others before Him
  5. Ask for specific help or guidance you might need

Perhaps you have seen the “catchy” little acronym ACTS (not original with me) to guide one’s prayer life. A – Adoration; C – Confession; T – Thanksgiving; S – Supplication.

I once asked my grandson, Joseph, what kinds of things he talked about with Billy Bob Joe, and what Billy Bob Joe said to him. Joseph simply said, “That’s my secret.” That’s true as well with much of our prayer life. While there are important public prayers, also there are words which we utter both verbally and from our heart only to God. The psalmist said, “He knows the secrets of the heart” (Psa. 44:21), and He uses our heart to instruct us. Again the psalmist declared, “Behold, You delight in truth in the inward being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Psa. 51:6). Since God knows your secrets and your heart, who do you talk to?

Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord.

Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.