Saturday, March 19, 2011

What to Pray

At a time when the length of my prayer list leaves me wondering where to start, I try to organize people and events into order of most immediate need.  "God, I pray first for this and second for that," is something along the lines of where my thoughts try to go.  Well, I often find that when I've organized items, people, and situations into some semblance of order, I'm left sitting in wonder over what to pray.  For instance, do I ask God to end this person's suffering, turn that person's circumstances around, and completely wipe away the pain felt by all parties involved over there? What about Lonnie, the homeless man I met today?  Do I ask God to change his circumstances and get him off the streets? Sure.  But in all things prayed for we should pray that God's will, and not our own, be done. 
Praying doesn't have to be some formal, on your knees type of show in which you shush all those around you and in a stern voice say, "quiet, I'm praying to my holy Father in heaven."  It can be as informal and basic as saying "good morning, God and thank You for this day" as you rise from bed. Additionally, I've learned that when I don't know what to pray for concerning a situation I know needs prayer, I ask the Holy Spirit inside of me to lead the way --and He does.  Not too long ago I was faced with a situation that I honestly just didn't know what to pray for.  "God, I don't know what to pray for.  Please help me to know what's right," I said.  Within in matter of seconds, the words began to flow from my spirit through my mouth and by the time I was finished talking, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had just shown me what He wanted me to pray and I ended it with "may Your will be done." I felt a calm come over my spirit as I knew at the depths of my core that He was working on it right then, and no doubt had been already.  I was just late to the prayer party.  Well, praying for what we want isn't always going to be what God wants.  When we're not accustomed to foregoing our own plans and desires, it can be scary when we pray to God for His will to be done in our lives and circumstances because His will isn't always our own. In fact, quite often, His will is different from ours and we have a hard time trusting that His way is better.  I've learned the hard way, but it's true - His is better. 

I can't count the number of times I prayed to Him about something, heard an answer I didn't like, and responded by doing things my own way instead.  This led me to more heartache and frustration than I can even describe, but God let me do things my way just so I could see when my plans fell apart that His way is always best.  Well, what about pain, suffering, and kids who are taken from us so young?  I have a friend who recently lost her baby girl after a long and hard fight.  How is that better?  I don't know and it's one of the single most frustrating things for so many people about God.  We aren't allowed to see inside so many realms of life, but God tells us the following in Isaiah 55:8-11 (NIV)

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.  As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it"

I don't know why babies are taken and people suffer, and anyone who promises you the answers to those questions is speaking falsely because God assures us that His ways and thoughts are not ours; He doesn't allow us this information and any claims to truth on our part are nothing more than arrogant speculation.  For now there are just some things we must accept as an unknown and trust that God, the creator of the universe and men, knows what He's doing.  It took me at least my first three years (I've been walking with Him for only about four) of walking with Him to trust that He knew better than I.  I suffered a lot at my own hand during times when I tried to prove Him wrong.  "Well, God that just doesn't make sense or make me happy, so I think I'll just do this instead" was a typical response of mine when He would lead me in directions I didn't like.  Gradually, I came out of this egotistical state of being and surrendered all to Him.  Now, I don't even want to mak a decision unless He goes before it, but it took a lot of time, mistakes, and determination to keep walking with Him when He didn't do things my way.  I don't want my way anymore; I want His way.  It's almost easy to turn our backs on God when we don't like His methods, but the real beauty and peace comes when we cling to Him even when it hurts and makes no sense. 

Well, why bother praying if God is going to have his way in the end anyways?  Because prayer is our line of communication with Him and God doesn't need to hear us pray for what He already knows.  We need to hear us pray because through praying we're acknowledging not only to God, but to ourselves that we trust Him and believe in Him to meet our needs in a fallen world.  God already knows everything; the life of prayer is for us.  "Well, He hasn't been meeting my needs," is a common retort.  Well, maybe you're praying for something you don't need!  Or, maybe you're praying for something and it's not time for you to have it.  I prayed for three years for deliverance from a number of things before my day finally came.   I could have thrown in the towel and given up, but I kept praying to a God who didn't seem to be listening.  He was listening; His timing just wasn't my timing. 

So, don't worry about how to pray - just pray.  Praying isn't about formalities; it's about communication.  God doesn't care if you're sitting on a toilet or bowed down on your knees; He just wants us to exercise the faith that is expressed while talking to Him one on one.  Praying does more for us than we can see in the natural.  The minute we open the lines of communication between our heart and God's, things start to change.  They may not visibly change before us right where we are, but they're changing nonetheless.  Just because we can't see it doesn't mean it's not happening.  It takes more courage to wait on God than it does to walk away from Him, so I pray in the name of Jesus that you all embrace your own simplistic method of communication with God!

Talk, yell, scream, or cry - if it's to God, then it's prayer! God bless you all and thank you for continuing to read my blog!

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