From Hopscotch to Holiness

Margie Burger

Margie Burger

By Margie Burger –

“From hopscotch to holiness.” When God spoke those words to me, I knew he had some important insights to share with me. From that time, I began listening to the Holy Spirit and studying God’s Word in anticipation of growth. I’ve not been disappointed.

Hopscotch is a wonderful children’s game where you throw your stone at a number on the grid and then hop on one foot following the pattern of numbers. At the midway point, you turn around and return to the starting place. In a lot of ways, hopscotch is like prayer. God has asked me probing questions: “What are you aiming at when you pray? Did you hit the target? Are you living a balanced life? Or are you hopping on one foot, wobbly and out of balance?”

Sometimes we’re growing spiritually and, for whatever reason, we turn around and move in the opposite direction. We abandon the truth of Ephesians 4. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).

In hopscotch, there are rules. Everyone must agree to the rules to understand how to win the game. That’s also true in your prayer life. How you define prayer will dramatically affect your practice of prayer. Some people define effective prayer by the results they attain. Perhaps you’ve experienced that mind set: “I prayed for healing, a new job, a change in my marriage, etc., and God answered my prayer just as I desired.” I love answered prayer as much as anyone, but I’ve chosen not to define effective prayer in that light. Instead, I define prayer as a relationship with God that grows and matures over time. My practice of prayer, therefore, emphasizes intimacy with God — I make seeking God’s presence my ultimate goal.

We are not striving in our own strength. God desires and provides for an intimate prayer life for all believers. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). We all must learn to rely on God’s divine power through the Holy Spirit to change and transform our prayer lives.

My prayer life changed when I committed to intentional listening. Prayer at its core was always meant to be a conversation. Talking with and listening to God are both important aspects of prayer. God goes to great lengths to help us know his will and discern his voice.

Listening to God is not complicated. However, we need to understand that God speaks to us in a variety of ways. He may speak through the Scriptures, visions, dreams, impressions, thoughts, or other people. We cannot overlook any of these ways if we desire to become better listeners in prayer.

At the same time, the writer of Hebrews encourages us to be receivers as we approach prayer with confidence. “Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). We come before God with boldness, confident that we will receive his grace when we pray. This is our place as redeemed children of the King.

My prayer life has grown as I’ve been intentional about understanding the character and nature of God. The God we serve is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All three aspects of God’s character deeply impact our prayers.

God the Father desires a loving relationship with all humanity, and sent his son to bridge the gap between finite man and infinite Almighty God. Our prayer life should be a reflection of this intimate relationship. How important is a love relationship with God in your prayer life? Examine your prayers with the insight that God sent Jesus to provide a means for a personal relationship with you. How much time in your prayer life is devoted to nurturing or sustaining this love relationship?

My prayer life changed with greater understanding of each aspect of the Trinity. However, it changed most dramatically when I came to understand the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Have you ever had God put his finger on your life through his Word? God used a verse to dramatically change my prayer life. “Jesus answered them, ‘You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God’” (Matthew 22:29).

I remember it well! God said, “Margie, you are in error because you do not know the Scriptures and you do not know the power of my Holy Spirit.” That incident sent me on a profound journey. My journey included intensive Bible reading and memorization. I made a choice to hide God’s Word in my heart. In addition, I searched God’s Word for a deeper understanding of the Holy Spirit. God enriched my life with Spirit-filled people that led and encouraged me on a journey that continues today.

God has given us so many precious tools to help us grow in our prayer lives. Praying the Scriptures helps us to solve the dilemma: “I want to pray, but I just don’t know what to say.” Praying the Scriptures teaches us to “pray the promise” rather than “praying the problem.” Sometimes we can get so caught up in telling God all about the problem during prayer that we forget God already knows every detail. Pouring our heart out to God when we are hurting is certainly a valuable part of prayer; however, if we stop there, we may never really see the victory in prayer. Instead, we can focus on the promises of God that are the answer to our needs.

Praying the Scriptures also allows us to focus on God’s character and his desire to meet our needs. For example, how do you pray for hope? A fully acceptable prayer might be, “Lord, give me hope today.” However, praying Romans 15:13 is a beautiful promise of hope. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This Scripture emphasizes that God is the source of our hope. It highlights the connection between hope, joy, and peace as we trust in the Lord. And it clearly states that we receive this hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

It’s exciting when God highlights a promise from his Word and I know he’s speaking directly to the need of my heart. When my eldest son was involved in drugs as a teenager, I knew I needed to do more than just tell God about the problem. I spent time seeking God, listening for his voice, and asking God for his promises for my children. At that time, I was reading the Good News Bible (TEV) and the translation of Jeremiah 31:16-17 became very special to me. “Stop your crying and wipe away your tears. All that you have done for your children will not go unrewarded; they will return from the enemy’s land. There is hope for your future; your children will come back home. I, the Lord, have spoken.” This Scripture became the focal point of my prayers. I didn’t know how or when God’s promise would be fulfilled, but I became confident that God would answer my prayers. I experienced the fulfillment of that promise several years later. If you have prodigal children who are running from the Lord, let Jeremiah 31 bring you comfort and assurance.

Our holy God equips us to walk in holiness. But we are prone to wander from the Lord. In hopscotch, if you step on a line you’re out. This is not necessarily so in life. When we sin, we can find forgiveness and restoration in Christ. And these lessons learned will always help us grow in holiness.

Margie Burger is director of prayer ministry for Aldersgate Renewal Ministries.


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