Thursday, March 3, 2011

Prayer: Part 2

Ok, I finally got this entry written.  Be prepared.  It is LONG.  And I copied and pasted a lot, so I'm sorry if the font size/type changes throughout. Haha.

Thanks again to everyone who gave me their input.  I found a lot of it so helpful.  Here are some of the things that really spoke to me:

The most common response was that the reason for prayer is to have an intimate relationship with God.  I certainly agree.  Many times in the New Testament, Jesus is shown going away from the crowd to pray for long periods of time.

As for my questions about presenting our petitions to God, many of you pointed out that God does indeed change his mind sometimes.  Laura said,

There are instances in the Old Testament where God had seemed to decide one thing, but when a righteous person went before Him and asked for something different, He "changed his mind." One example--in Exodus 32:11-14, Moses convinces God to "change His mind" or "repent" (vs. 14) of what He was going to do to Israel. I think there are at least several instances of this type of thing in the OT.

The most popular response, however, was that prayer is more useful for aligning our will with God's than getting our way.  I really like what Karen had to say:

Even Jesus Christ petitioned God to take the burden of the cross away from him, but he finished up with "Not my will but yours be done." Christ knew he had to face the cross, but he asked God anyway, not because he thought he could change God's mind but so that he could conform his heart to the will of his Father. 


That said, sometimes it's hard for me to understand why good things wouldn't be a part of God's will.  What bad can come from God restoring a broken marriage or healing a sick baby? But through a strange variety of sources, I've been reminded over and over that we do not see the big picture.  Many of your comments referenced this, that book I read was largely about this, we even discussed this in Bible Study on Monday.  God has a plan that none of us can see or understand.  Sometimes seemingly bad things have to happen for his will to be achieved.  


To illustrate this point, I'd like to quote my friend Kelly.  She knows what she's talking about.  She gave birth to a baby in 2009 who lived just over an hour before dying in her arms.  She's been through unthinkable pain, yet can still say this:


Have you ever prayed a prayer that hasn't been answered the way you want and been disappointed in the long run? I can honestly say I cannot look back disappointed. I miss my grandma so much and wished she could have lived forever, but know this: that was the single event that paved the way for me to have the clearest and closest relationship with my God. It prepared me to face the unbearable. Do I wish Rebekah (my daughter)would have survived...of course! I don't think of that time as fun...but I am filled with joy and peace as I KNOW God was honored and glorified through it all. It sounds cheesy, but it's true. I FELT His peace, his goodness, and His love. I knew He had felt my pain. In essence God answered my prayers positively - he brought me close to Him, the most satisfying place I could ever be. At the time we pray, we don't see the end - we don't know the answer. But hindsight will be this amazing journey that concludes in a beautiful place.


As for my questions about how "hard" we need to pray - most of your responses can be summed up in Amy's words:  [Quick confession: I have a few friends named Amy and I'm not sure which one of you said this. Lol.]


We often believe the myth that if we pray just the right way or enough times He will answer. He is not a genie and repeating the same prayer over and over does not do any tricks.


I also like what Cara said:


Okay, he's in charge...I really doubt that my laying before him a reasoned, logical argument for why I want that person to survive cancer is going to somehow be better than "God, please save her life. Her kids need her. You know that."


That said, Jesus gave a few parables about being persistent in prayer:  Luke 11:5-13 and Luke 18:1-8.  Luke 18:1 says, "Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up."   And of course there's 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "pray continually."  So I guess we have to find the happy medium there.  


Really, though we don't understand it, prayer can't hurt.  And it might help in ways we never expect.  Steve commented that his grandpa prayed for everyone he knew every day and hearing those prayers shaped Steve's life.  You never know who your prayers might touch.


I'll close with one more quote from Kelly.  She reiterated something I've been thinking a lot about.  I recently finished the book Fearless by Max Lucado.  He points out that though we have no guarantee of an easy life (more like a guarantee of the opposite: "In this world you will have trouble . . ." John 16:33), but we do have a guarantee that God will be with us.  Remember the verse I quoted in my original post? "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."  I wrote that off, saying, "Peace? I don't want peace! I want answers! I want my way!"  But honestly, peace and a promise that He will be with us is huge! Back to the quote from Kelly:



I want to mention also that GOD FORBID anything happen to the ones we love so much...He does make it bearable...really He does. It hurts soo very much, but it really is an ok place. Pain is scary . . .but in the back of my mind (probably because of what I've been through), I know how much God would comfort me. I know the peace He would give. It would be terrible and I would probably hurt for a very long time. In the end I would see His love with clarity and I would have the most inner joy. It's so strange but I guess that's why having God in your life is so rewarding. 


Don't pray out of fear. Pray out of trust.

5 comments:

  1. Sade your so AWESOME! I loved what you wrote! Your the best! Way to go! :)

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  2. Aww, thanks! And way to figure out how to leave a comment!

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  3. This is a fabulous post. I love how you pulled together so many people's experiences and opinions to explain one great truth. I won't pretend to understand the full power and purpose of prayer, but this at least helped.

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  4. I really like how in the parable in Luke 11, it ends with a verse we're really familiar with--"ask and you shall receive, knock and the door will be opened", etc. I heard someone speak not too long ago about what greater blessings we might be missing out on by not asking. He had a couple of examples from the Bible about instances where people received a blessing, but then because they asked or persisted, were given something even greater. His point was--what greater things might we be missing out on by not asking?

    On the other hand, I also have to remind myself that this world and the things in it do not hold even one one thousandth of the importance that we often place on it--eternity is a far greater reality. And our purpose in being here is not to be blessed abundandtly in the way we often think of being blessed. It is to be made holy and to do things that have eternal importance. It's terrible to encounter difficulties in life, and God understands sorrow better than anyone, but ultimately our earthly comfort is not His number one priority. But in becoming holy and glorifying Him, I think there is an everlasting blessing for us--far greater than the blessings that we seem to often seek so hard.

    Thsoe are just a few more thoughts that your post made me think of, and as you can see, it is impossible for me to be succinct when expressing them. :) Thanks for letting me creep around your blog! :)

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  5. This is great...it's so great to hear from so many other people - thanks for compiling it all along with your thoughts.
    I really love that last thought of praying out of trust instead of fear. I think that really might be the key to the whole thing...because if we're praying out of fear, we're not really trusting that God is good. But praying out of trust has our relationship with God at the forefront which is so key.
    Good stuff!

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