A new year, a new diary and the pickle of prayer
1st of January and the beginning of my next prayer journal. I pray that it will lead me into a deeper relationship with God and a better understanding of his will for my life and for the coming year. As I pray this I start to think more and more about prayer. How we pray and why.
Why is the one thing that seems the most basic of the Christian faith also the one thing that we seem to struggle with the most.
It seems so easy. All he wants is for us to talk to him and yet we find it so complicated that it causes some to give up on their faith altogether.
The Bible is jam packed with the spoken words of Jesus promising our answered prayers, encouraging and prompting us to move mountains, to heal the lame and to give all up to him but life would tell us that its clearly just not that simple. So what are we missing? The three main problems I have pondered over the years are, how and why should I pray and what happens next?
If he is good, and loves us and his plans are always to prosper us then why are we trying to change his mind. Why are we trying to convince him to change the course of our lives to a direction we think is better for us or will make us happy? Would it not be easier just to leave God to get on with it? He has it all in hand and is more than capable. What is it we think we are bringing to the table?
"Can I help make my lunch", "can I help make the cake" "Can I help you do the washing?" All I hear from my children all day is, can I do it, can you show me, what is this, can I help. They love to be involved, they are desperate to grow, excited to learn and eager to spend time with me. When we pray we show God we are just like these children. Do I need their help, or course not. Do I love doing it with them and involving them, absolutely. As children of God, the more we involve ourselves in God's plans the more we learn and mature. The more we experience and the more chance we have to be part of something amazing for his glory.
When I was pregnant and the hospital thought my daughter had Down Syndrome we and everyone around us prayed so hard into our lives. And yes, some of those prayers were asking for a different result to what we got. We prayed everything would be 'normal' and God said No. But were these prayers ok? Surely when we completely trust in him our true response should always be, "tell me what to do to speed up and bring to pass the plans you have for me". But in doing this are we not lying with our hearts? To say we are ok with one outcome when we are desperate for a different one is a pointless exercise when your dealing with a God who sees you always and dwells in the very heart your supposedly praying out of. God had a perfect plan for my family and I was desperately trying to undo it. If she had been born without Down Syndrome, would we have called that an answer to prayer? How do we pray right? How do we ask for the right things? How do we know what is important and what isn't of interest. Where does he want to be involved and where are we left to do it ourselves? How do we pray to better understand his will, to see his plan and to walk in the right direction? Answer, we don't. And I don't think God's asking us to....
.....and so we pray and we pour it ALL out. Not perfectly but honestly, not second guessing him, not deciding what is and isn't important, but all of it, the dirty and damaged inner parts of our hearts and lives, the big and the small, the desperate and the sometimes selfish, and let God sort through it, let him pick through our hearts, repairing the broken, removing what is no longer needed and replacing the empty parts with His fullness of life.
I can't help but wonder when we know there will be trouble, and his word tells us there will be a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to live and a time to die maybe if we looked at our prayer as a tool to guide us through the journey set out in front of us instead of a get out of jail free card that we can use in an attempt to live a long painless life then we would find ourselves better in tune with his will.
You see the type of Christian walk doesn't change where we go when we die, it changes the road we take getting there.
So what happens next? Yes, no, maybe, wait, try again later? Firstly God is not a magic 8 ball and I'm not convinced there is such a thing as an unanswered prayer yet when the response doesn't feel immediate then waiting on the Lord can be hard and confusing.
There is nothing more disheartening to a Christian than when desperate prayers seem to be answered with radio silence and we're often told that God is saying no. This may be true if we are asking for something that wont do as any good in the long run. It may also be true if our motives aren't right. God is not a power source, we should be very careful not to treat prayer as some sort of magic to plug in to, point and shoot. We are told there is power in prayer but that power belongs to God, when we pray our prayers meet his power and we are given the opportunity to be involved in the fulfilment of his will.
I do believe sins stand in our way. Pray for a promotion at work but if you enjoy gossiping and undermining your boss to the rest of the office don't be surprised if your prayer isn't answered. But God knows our hearts better than we know our own and no matter where you are on your journey of faith if you are sure that you are living your life for him and you have a heart that you take regular to him in worship and repentance then I think believing your prayers aren't answered because you're not a good enough Christian is simply a trick of the enemy and doesn't ring right for a faith that basis itself on grace and a King who died to save us WHILE we were still sinners
Sometimes God says no because we are asking for something that he knows we can't have. In a recent article I read by Marilylle Soveran she write:
Sometimes we see something we like and reach for it, like a child looking out at the shinning moon, "Please Mommy, can I have it?" It looks to a child like something he could reach out and grasp. Would the mother then close the curtains and slip away to cut a fake moon of silver paper for the child to hang on the wall, saying "Here, my dear, is the moon." More likely she would enjoy the real moon with her child, giving a big hug as assurance of her love, and say, "No, the moon is not the sort of thing I can give you. Some day you will understand." Nor would a good mother chide or despise the request. Wouldn't she love all the more, delighted that her child had come to her with the desire? There are things we ask God for that are not what they seem to us.
When we feel God has said no or we are waiting to see answers and we don't understand why, helplessness can set in. But we are not called to be helpless or weak. We are called to rise up.
To walk in faith as a Christian we must start with some of the most basic beliefs. Firstly that God is good. Not can be good, not does good but IS good. Secondly that he loves us. Not when we are good, not for what we might become but us, as we stand before Him now and thirdly that he's plans are always to prosper us and never to harm us therefore he will cause all things to work together for the good for those who love him.
Grasp these with your heart, soul and mind. Carry them with you. Build your relationship with Him through prayer, study and worship so he can give you fresh revelation of the truth of His word and then hold Him to those promises because although we may not always understand the path, or like the timing, He never fails.