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Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Aaron says, “Hmm…?”

March 17, 2011

Rewind: We all have questions about prayer.  Whether you’ve been a Christian for 20 years or 20 days, prayer is one of those things that you never completely figure out.

How does it work, exactly?  Is God listening?  How can He hear all of us at once?  What does it sound like?  How much difference does it make?  How often should I pray?  What should I pray about?  What does it look like to truly pray without ceasing?

The Thursday before spring break, Aaron shared a few of the things that make him question how Christians approach prayer.  They’re pretty common things – you may even recognize some of your own habits.  Indeed, many of them are so prevalent and widely accepted that most of us would be surprised if they weren’t a part of our daily prayer lives.  However, they’re also things that probably ought to inspire a mental double-take.  At face value, they make sense and even seem to jive with biblical perceptions of God, but do they hold up under further scrutiny?  Does that question make you go, “Hmm…?”   Maybe it’s time you asked yourself a few questions…

Here are just a few of the things that make Aaron go, “Hmm…?” about prayer:

  • When someone forgets to pray before a meal and people FREAK OUT…

Now, there’s nothing wrong with praying before a meal, in fact, it’s highly encouraged (think 1 Thess. 5:18), and when we forget (which we often do), it’s good of our brothers and sisters to remind us, but why is that the only time we get riled up about prayer?  The bible tells us to “pray continually,” not just before we eat.  How come no one’s up in arms about when people forget to pray right after they wake up, or before they fall asleep?  Why are we, as Christians, so consumed by meal-time prayers, and yet so unconcerned with every-other-time-of-the-day prayers?  What does that have to say about how we approach prayer?  Is it just another hoop to jump through before we can chow down, or does giving thanks in prayer have a greater significance?

  • When no one writes down the prayer requests…

Even if your bible study is on the smaller side, say three or four people, it’s difficult to keep track of everyone’s specific prayer requests unless you write them down.  If you’re lucky, without the aid of pen and paper, you’ll probably remember enough about each person to give them a short shout out in the closing prayer, but chances are, in the week that follows you’ll have to resort to blanket prayers: God, You know what so-and-so is worried about, and You know what he/she needs most; please be with him/her. Thankfully, since our God is omniscient, that kind of prayer works – He really does know our worries/fears, and exactly what we need.  But, if you really believe that prayer matters, that it truly has the capacity to change our reality, don’t you want to be a little more specific?  If prayer is really supposed to be such a key part of our relationship with the Lord and with each other, shouldn’t we be making more of an effort?

  • When you say, “I’ll pray for you!” and then run away as fast as you can…

“Gee, Darren, thanks for spilling your guts and baring your soul.  It was touching, really, and I’m super happy that you trust me enough to confide in me!  I would love to pray for you… But not right now, because, right now, I have to go.  You know how it is, my DVR has been acting up lately, and I really don’t want to miss tonight’s Dancing with the Stars! Good luck with that heart-wrenching problem of yours – I’ll be praying, promise!”

Let’s be honest here, shall we?  You know as well as I do that the success rate of this scenario is close to zilch.  You mean well, we all do, but really, what’s the likelihood that you’ll go home and actually remember to pray for Darren? Mmhm, that’s what I thought…  Again, if prayer is really as important as the bible says it is, shouldn’t be waiting anxiously for the chance to talk to God, especially when it’s about something really important?  Why would we ever choose to put that off?

  • When we just keep saying just

Just be with us, Lord.  Just love on us.  Just bless us.  Just keep us safe.  Just be in this place.  Just guide us.  We just want to praise You.  We just want to thank You.  We just love You so much.  Just teach us to be more like You so that we can just shine Your light on those who just don’t know Your love.  Just let us be Your hands and feet in this world, which is just so broken, and just so stuck, and just so in need of You.  Also, please just give us a slightly larger vocabulary, because, for some weird reason, we just seem unable to stop saying “just”.  We treat it just like a magic word.  It’s as if we think that if we just say just enough times, You really will answer our prayers.  Instead, maybe we should just stop saying just, and just trust that You’ll hear us whenever we call.

We all do these things.  Some of us may even do all of these things.  Most of us do a few of these things and a few other things too.  But do these habits really speak the truth about prayer?  Last Thursday, Aaron asked over and over again if the way we approach prayer is in line with what the New Testament teaches?  Do our behaviors proudly proclaim the magnificent glory and beauty of our God, or do they reduce His presence and limit His power?  Are we OK with our answers, or are we, like Aaron, left saying, “hmm…?’

Pause: So what does the bible say about prayer?  Here are a few verses for you to consider.

“Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God.  God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full… when you pray do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”  Matthew 6:5, 7-8

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” John 15:7

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Push Play: Prayer is complex – that’s the reason why we’re spending so much time talking about it this month – and because it’s so complex, it’s tempting to find a formula or a pattern that we’re comfortable with and sit in it.

Do you ever find yourself praying the same things over and over again each night?  I know I do…  It’s not that I’m being disingenuous; everything I pray about is important to me, and I really am praying because I want to spend time with God, not just because I feel like I should.  But if prayer is about cultivating a relationship with my Creator and Savior, shouldn’t it be more of a conversation than a speech?  I mean, think about it: if you and your best friend had the exact same conversation each and every day, I would venture to guess you wouldn’t stay best friends for long.  Oh my goodness, can you imagine just how boring that would be?!

I don’t know about you, but I never want to be bored in my relationship with Jesus.  Even if it means abandoning what I’ve grown accustomed to, I want to delve deeper into God each time I pray; I want to invite Him to sit beside me, and whisper His wisdom and comfort into my heart.  What about you?

Much Love,

Taylor

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