To many who do not share a faith, prayer seems like a mystical, silly time of talking to the wind in hopes that a magic being will come and make all our problems better. What’s worse is when a Christian believes that too. I would hope no Christian who is serious about their relationship with God believes that, not to mention the simple fact that for anyone who does or has prayed, they know it doesn’t work like that.
In fact, for those who take prayer seriously, they’ll tell you that while nothing “magical” happens, something powerful does. Sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes it takes years, but prayer has a power all to its own, empowered by the God to which we pray.
This week’s blog series will focus on how to deepen our prayer life, but those will mostly happen in the next two posts. Before we get there, I want to clarify just what we’re talking about here.
Prayer is not:
A Christmas Wish List: You’re not talking to Santa Claus and simply asking for what you want in life.
Talking to the Wind: The very God who created you & everything is listening (more on this later).
Forced: God doesn’t force us to pray, nor does He want us to pray because we “have to or else.”
Done to Impress: Jesus addressed this in Matthew 6 & Luke 18, that we pray for & to God, not to impress anyone else at our vocabulary or piety. We pray on behalf of others, but never to others besides God.
Unnecessary: Prayer is an integral part of the Christian life, so much so that Paul tell us to pray without ceasing & in all circumstances pray to God (1st Thessalonians 5 & Philippians 4).
So what is prayer?
Prayer is many things, but at it’s core it is us, the created, talking to God, the creator. This in itself is an amazing thing as many religions have those who are created too low, too unimportant, or the creator so high & mighty that they don’t care about us, or the creator is disinterested in the lowly needs of the created. The God of the Bible is not only interested, but alongside with us in our lives, and thus prayer is not only important, but an amazing grace that our God gives us. In this line of thinking, I’d like to offer three thoughts about what prayer is.
In any relationship there must be good communication. Can you imagine going on a date with someone and never speaking a word for the entire time? Was it a good or bad date? Would you even know!?!? Prayer is the means by which we communicate with God, how we tell Him our need, wants, desire, fears.
One might ask, doesn’t He already know? Yes of course He does, but prayer isn’t to inform God of things He doesn’t know, it’s for us to intentionally let God in on our life. Let’s go back to relationships again. There’s an old story of an older couple who has come in for counseling with the wife’s chief complaint that her husband never tells her he loves her anymore. Upon hearing this the husband turns to her and says, “I told you that when I married you, and if that changes I’ll let you know!”
Prayer is our intentional and purposeful act of telling God we love Him, to let Him into our lives, to involve Him and include Him in our daily life. The difference from a marriage is that God isn’t going anywhere and is ready to be involved at all times – if our relationship with God falters, it’s from our end. Prayer is intentionally making God a priority in our lives.
When you ask a mechanically minded friend to help you replace your brakes, you’re admitting that you can’t yourself, and you’re submitting yourself to their help. For the Christian, there are many things in life that we cannot, nor should we, face ourselves, and prayer is the admission of submission.
When we pray, we admit we can’t or don’t want to go through something ourselves, and submit to God’s power to help us get through. We submit to God’s power over nature, our bodies, sin, & evil when we cannot affect those things ourselves. We submit to God’s working in situations in which we can only experience one day at a time. We submit to the certainty of God in situations we are uncertain about. We submit to God’s paradoxical workings of being financially generous in financially hard times, forgiving those when they’ve wronged us, and serving to lead. We submit in these things, and God says He hears & answers (Matthew 7).
Christmas has come for 2017, and many people received gifts to which they told someone, “Thank you!” Our children will also be writing thank you cards to grandparents, uncles & aunts, & friends for things they received. Even if in the moment they were able to say thank you, there’s something special about after the fact sitting down to intentionally communicate appreciation. Prayer in reflection and appreciation for what God had done and brought you through is valuable, not just for God, but for you to intentionally reflect upon your journey and choices. In the moment things that don’t seem good at all can after the fact seem like a blessing.
Another old story goes that there was once a man & his son tending their team of horses. One horse ran away, and the neighbor came over to lament, “Oh bad luck, eh?” Well the next day the horse came back with 10 more wild horses, and the neighbor came over to say, “Hey, pretty good luck, eh?” Well, the son when trying to break these wild horses ended up being hit and broke his arm, making him unable to help his father, and the neighbor came back to say, “Oh, terrible luck, eh?” Well then the next day a group of mercenaries came through recruiting new member by forcing the oldest sons into their group, but when they came and saw the son with the broken arm they didn’t want him, and the neighbor came to say, “Wow, great luck, eh?”
The story illustrates that we only ever know what choices & what events were good long after the fact. Sometimes that happens with God’s answers to prayers as well, that we don’t know or don’t see the reason for His answer until years later. Often it is only after time, years sometimes as well, that we can reflect back and tell God how much we appreciate what He did or didn’t do in our lives.
There are many more things we can talk about, but I leave you with these three concepts to think about if they describe your prayer life at all. In the next few posts we’ll be looking at types of prayers, and ways of praying that expand our spiritual transformation.
Not just because it’s a post about prayer, but I’m praying for you. Grace to you.