Wednesday, April 20, 2011

For the Prayerful

Picture this.  It's dinner time, and the whole, extended fam is seated around the dinner table for Uncle Jim's birthday.  Just before everyone digs in, however, Mom looks around the table and asks who would like to pray.  Cousin Sally volunteers because she always volunteers.  

Twelve minutes later.

Your little broski pokes you with his fork because after the first three minutes of the many nice things Sally had to say to the Lord, you dozed off just a bit.

Marathon Pray-ers.  They exist.  I'm one of them.  I'm cousin Sally -- not literally, obviously.  But figuratively.  If you don't know whether or not you qualify for this self-coined term, let me give you some insight.  If people start to kind of giggle when you volunteer to pray, or squeeze your hand a few minutes into your prayer, or maybe even make comments like ... "As long as our food isn't cold by the time you finish."  You probably qualify.  It's fine.  As much as people poke fun at us sometimes, there are always the select few that however much they may ridicule us, they are silently PTL-ing because they don't have to pray aloud.  

For me, I think it's sometimes a combination of there is always just so much to pray about and sometimes I just end up vocalizing the stream of consciousness running through my head.  I just feel so at peace when praying because God knows what I'm going to say even before I say it.  No matter I stumble over my words or say "um" 25 times in two minutes, I know He listens and truly cares what I have to say -- even if sometimes I say way too much.

Prayer is so special and incredible for many reasons but probably chiefly because prayer is conversation with the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE.  

He who created that...
and that...
and that...
DESIRES to be in conversation with us daily.

I think prayer looks differently at different stages of life.  There are some days prayer is all we can cling to -- the only constant in our lives.  Because while we can't hold God's hand or feel Jesus wrapping His arms around us, we can be in conversation with Him every day.  Other days prayer is a weapon against the enemy, a cry for help, a shout for joy, a song of praise.

There's a part of James that talks about as we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.  I'm not an expert by any means, but I think drawing near to God can be done in many different ways.  But personally, I think that prayer is one of the most powerful ways to deepen one's relationship with the Lord.

When I have kids one day, I am going to be so excited every day when they get home from school.  I'm going to want to hear about every detail of their days -- what they had for lunch, what they learned in Social Studies, who they played with at recess, if someone hurt their feelings, etc.  I'm pretty confident that I'm going to know when they're upset or sad or worried about something -- even if they don't tell me.  And as much as I'll want to sometimes, I won't be able to force them to tell me what's wrong.  Kids are stubborn -- we are all stubborn.  We want to fix problems on our own.  And more often than not, we don't want to admit that we need help.  

But God will already know what they're dealing with.  He knows we're dealing with.  He doesn't have to ask us because He already knows.  He created us.  But there is something about us literally telling Him that strengthens our relationship with Him.  I think because it's an act of admitting that we don't have all the answers, that we can't rely on ourselves, that the world is flawed, that we need help, that we know there has to be a better way.

It doesn't matter if we're just tired or anxious or angry or trying to make a decision or absolutely overflowing with joy and excitement, God knows and wants to hear about it.  He created us and understands us.  He cares for us.  See James 5:13-18.

I think it's easy to be deceived into believing that we aren't good enough for the Lord to listen to our prayers.  This deception can happen so quickly -- Eve wasn't the only one.

Deception with prayer and God, in my opinion, has to do with unanswered prayers.  I've definitely experienced this, where I've prayed for something incessantly but seen no fruit from my prayers.  So I just end up figuring it's a useless, hopeless cause or I'm just not good enough for the Lord to answer my prayers.  At that point, I have become complacent and have simply quit praying, which is exactly what the enemy wants.  

But the truth is that no matter who we are, the Lord does care.  No only does He care for us, but He listens to us. Our victory comes from Him alone.  See Psalm 34:4-5, Psalm 17:6-9, Psalm 50:15, Matthew 7:6-8.

Not only that, but because we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us as believers, He prays on our behalf.  We have the SPIRIT OF THE LORD praying for us, even when we don't know what we ought to pray -- HE KNOWS and does so.  Why?  Because even though we don't deserve His love, He loves us unconditionally, whole-heartedly, completely, fully.  When we're broken, tired, hurt, mean, rude, arrogant, worthless, messy, HE LOVES US.  

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses.  For example, we don't know what God wants us to pray for.  But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.  And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God's own will.  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose." -Romans 8:26-28


Not only that, but because when Jesus rose again and the veil in the temple was torn, we can literally come directly to the throne of God in prayer.  "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." -Hebrews 4:16  Seriously so beautiful.  And TRUE.

Because we know this, it is my hope that we might not only pray, but that we would also BELIEVE that God is listening and seeks to bless us even though we are so undeserving... That we serve a God who is FOR US.  Far too many times we do not have because we do not ask.  Or because we don't really believe that God can fix it or provide or heal us from our wounded hearts or sanctify us from our crap or use us in our weakness.  

In the Gospels, people come to Jesus all the time, asking Him to heal them.  Almost every time after healing them, Jesus says, "Because of your FAITH, you have been healed."  See Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Luke 17:19, Luke 18:42, Acts 3:16.

The Lord asks very little of us, but to come to him, admit our sin, and accept His love and forgiveness.  For in admitting our sin, we cannot help but recognize his abundant mercy, grace, and unconditional love that is completely satisfying.

Our prayers can be long-winded, and we can sound super-spiritual and like we have it all together. When the reality is, we don't.  The crux of prayer, in my opinion, and something I often fall short in, is simply admitting my sinfulness, admitting my shortcomings, recognizing my daily failures.  And praising God for loving me in spite of these things -- because He does.

He loves us, no matter where we've come from, where we've been, or where we're going.  He remains faithful even when we are not.  It is my prayer that our prayers would always point us to the cross, to our deep need for Jesus, and fill us with the peace that transcends all understanding simply by knowing and believing that He hears us.

More to come.  All my love!

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