The Check-In Prayer

Intention #2: Inquire of the LORD

Recently I discovered a new type of prayer: The check-in prayer.

Typically I default to one of three prayers:

The Gratitude Prayer
Dear God, thank you for the joy that my planter of tiny succulents brings me. Amen.

The Wisdom Prayer
Dear God, I don’t know how to encourage my friend as she walks through this crisis. Help me, please.

The Intercessory Prayer
Dear God, my friend has a book proposal due in a few months. You have called her to be a wife, a mom, a program director, and a writer. Help her find the time to write. Amen.

I pray in these ways because I believe God gives. He gives beauty and words and time. He gives life and breath and food and shelter. He gives courage and direction. He gives help and healing and wholeness.

What else do I believe about God?  And how do my beliefs shape how I pray?

Prayer is tricky. We’re never quite sure how to do it. We’re not quite sure how it works. Still, we know we ought to talk with God. So we pray.

I noticed the check-in prayer during my study of 1-2 Samuel. These two books recount Israel’s transition from theocracy to monarchy. The Israelites abandon the rule of God to the rule of men, the leadership of prophets to the leadership of kings. In these two books, we learn about the first two kings: Saul and David.

The author of 1-2 Samuel does not allow the reader to miss the stark contrast between Saul and David. In particular, I observed a major difference in how they prayed. David inquired of the Lord. Saul did not.

Giant-slayer, beloved harpist, son-in-law. For brief moments, David found favor with King Saul. But, after David’s mighty military conquests, favor turned to jealousy and rage. Out of fear, Saul tried to kill David on several occasions, and eventually, David fled.

While hiding out with his army of the in-debt, in-distress, and discontented, David saw that Israel’s enemy, the Philistines, were fighting against a nearby town. David, Israel’s military hero with a sterling record against the Philistines, did not immediately rush to battle. First, David “inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go and attack these Philistines?’” (1 Sam 23:2). And the Lord said to go.

Fearful of the mighty Philistines, David’s men were reluctant to fight. So “again David inquired of the LORD, and the LORD answered him” (1 Sam 23:4). This time, the Lord gave both directive and encouragement: “Go…for I am going to give the Philistines into your hand” (1 Sam 23:4).

When we walk with God, seeking to follow him, I don’t think he minds these check-in prayers. David was “a man after [God’s] heart.” God honored his check-in prayers with answers.

Check-in prayers remind us of our dependence on God.  They remind us that we do not have all of the answers.  Check-in prayers remind us that God has an interest in what we do.

In my recent research among Christian college students, some approached career decision-making without having check-in conversations. More than one student told me that their faith had not been a significant part of their decision-making process, but they were confident that God would intervene if they were making the wrong decision.

I’m not sure that God always checks in on us in that way. Yes, he gives us agency to make choices, but he wants to be a constant conversation partner in our decision-making.  If we leave God out of the conversation, we cannot assume that he will intervene if we have made a poor choice or are about to do something stupid. He certainly didn’t do that in Saul’s case.

Throughout his kingship, Saul acted impulsively. He refused to wait on the LORD. Only in desperation did he inquire of the LORD. Samuel the prophet had died. The Philistines prepared to route Israel. At that point, Saul decided to inquire of the LORD. “But the LORD did not answer him by Urim or prophets” (1 Sam 28:6).

In 2018, I’m trying the check-in prayer. Right now, I have a project in mind. It aligns with my gifts and what I perceive to be my calling. I think the idea may even be from the LORD, but I want to check in with him before moving forward. I think my prayer might go like this: “God, I have this project in mind.  I think it could work.  What do you think?”  I hope he will honor my prayer with an answer.