Pray? What’s the Purpose?

How much (or little)  do we really know about God and about prayer?

I  laughed out loud  as I read the above list. Why? Simply because I’ve caught myself praying as if I thought God did say one or more of those  things. In fact I have felt on a number of occasions  that maybe God did  ‘make a mistake’ in a lot of areas–especially in my life. But that just shows how little I know about God and the whole subject of prayer.

Understanding prayer, and how it works, can be a little tricky if you don’t know God, and even more so if you have wrong ideas about what prayer is and it’s purpose in the life of a believer. For example, if you have ever prayed to God as if

  • You thought you could open His eyes to new possibilities
  • To awaken love or mercy (or some other attribute) in Him to bestow on you or others
  • Your ideas were really great and would He please bless them

then, like me, you probably have entertained some false ideas about the subject of prayer.  Don’t feel too bad. You have plenty of company! I am guilty of approaching prayer as if I had to prove my need or give God a good reason to answer me. I’ve found myself begging God to get me out of big messes I made all on my own! I have prayed fervently for His intervention in certain situations–to save me from my own foolish decisions that have gone awry.  At other times, totally ashamed to come to God in prayer, I have found myself wondering if God was thinking, “Linda, you’ve let me down so many times. You continually blow it! What makes you think I’d give you anything you asked for? You don’t deserve to have your prayers answered.”

Clearly I did not understand God’s nature or his heart of compassion.

Some of my early approaches to God and the subject of prayer  had a lot to do with my ignorance of who God is and what His purposes are.  I was (and still am) serious about the problems in my life and in the lives of those closest to me.  My motivations to pray were sincere enough, for I knew there must be solutions to the world’s biggest questions–and even the ‘not so big’ ones. And I suspected rightly, that  God was the key to making good solutions happen. However I was often baffled as I came to a prayer time, and found myself speechless. How does one approach a holy, perfect, all-powerful God? Does He really hear? Does He really care–about me?

I often saw people praying and then good things happened. They reported, with such joy that God had answered their prayers. I had conflicting emotions because I wanted that kind of connection with God. I wanted my prayers answered too! But would He do that for me?

These issues drove me to to my knees, quite literally! I began to learn to pray when trials and hardships came into my life–like the time our 3 month old baby contracted a life-threatening disease and spent a whole month in the ICU.  Or the time one of our teens ran away and was missing from our lives for 4 months! Or when traveling  in foreign countries and getting caught in a mob scene where the windshield of our taxi was smashed by angry rioters! Surviving traveler’s revenge–though barely.  God’s presence and protection became much more real in these times of trial and difficulty than in my usual quiet day at the keyboard. When life circumstance surround us in such a way that nothing short of a miracle can change things, that moment becomes  a ‘prayer moment’–a moment when one acknowledges that God alone can change things for good. But I want you to think about this:

Prayer is not just something we do in stressful times–it is a  journey.

When  I started going to church again I began reading and studying the Bible, and talking to godly people who knew more about prayer than me.  I learned  many things about what prayer is and what it is not. I began to see  that prayer is not just something we do in stressful times, but that it is a journey–a life long journey–of  walking with a God-awareness; learning about God and His son, Jesus; seeking to find His ways through life’s complicated circumstances; yes–even what His desires and His plans for mankind are,  while we live on this earth and face what comes afterwards.

 I am continually learning that  ‘His ways that are higher than my ways, and His thoughts higher than my thoughts’ (see Isaiah 55:8-9)–and that this side of Heaven, I may never fully understand what takes place in the heavenly realms when a believer prays.  What happens to God’s heart when He hears a believer pray? I have learned to trust this One we refer to as  Almighty God, Savior, Lord, Father. Many of my former misconceptions  about  prayer have been dispelled and have been replaced with truths I discovered from the Bible.

Prayer changes people!

 The place of prayer in my live has changed. It is now  a precious time where I can come into His presence with confidence, and  converse with Him as friend to Friend.   I don’t wonder any more if ‘God has made a mistake’–or somehow forgot to think of all the important details. I know He has. (See Psalm 139:1-18 if you are curious!) Sure I still find myself asking Him to do things, change things, fix things. I still find myself beseeching Him earnestly and persistently about some things,  bordering on begging Him to intervene for the things most heavy on my heart. But most of all, now I find my self asking Him to change my heart desires to more closely reflect the things that are important to Him–for Him to work out HIS perfect will for each and every situation I face–for He knows what is best.

Prayer changes people. Prayer is still changing  me!  According to one author, the purpose of prayer  “is to release the power of God to accomplish the purposes of God (on earth). . . .to discover God’s will, not obligate Him to do mine; to reflect God’s mind, not to change it. I could, through prayer, release God’s power to bring about the best possible solution, in every situation, because that is always God’s desire.” (see Live the Praying Life,Jennifer Kennedy Dean, New Hope Publishers )

This Psalmist’s prayer echo’s mine. How about you? “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all the day long.”  (Psalm 25:4-5)

What is  YOUR answer to these two questions:

  • Does prayer change God? If not, why should I pray?
  • Why does it matter whether I pray or not?
  • What do I know about God and His ways that influences the way I pray to Him?

Thanks for reading this post. Please send me your comments. I really want to read your answers to these questions.  I will respond to every comment.

Blessings on your Saturday (and don’t forget to pray!)

Linda

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