This past Sunday we were given a powerful message on prayer. It's been rattling around in my head since then. (if you haven't been able to listen to Sunday's message, you can do that HERE)
So many times we look at prayer like some kind of Olympic sport (How long can you go? How much time have you spent?), or a kind of shame-based evaluation of the health of our spiritual life. And, by the way, it is true that prayerlessness can point to a lack of faith, or to a sense of "giving up on God". Even though that can be true, it's is especially hard when God is not answering our consistent praying as we would like, but continually calls us to Him and invites us to pray anyway. That can even seem cruel at times. . . . . .
But, I don't think the answer is pushing and prodding each other to pray like some kind of exercise regimen. It's been said that "prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but taking hold of his willingness". On Sunday we looked at the fact that Elijah prayed for things that God has already promised. So, what are the promises we need to take hold of, and pray for? That's a good question to ask yourself. R.C. Sproul has a helpful piece on prayer HERE, and he offers these helpful words:
Imagine if you would, what would happen to your sorrows and fears if God Himself, the maker of heaven and earth, the Father of our Lord, the sovereign One, were to come to you, wrap you in His almighty arms and say to you, “I love you with a perfect love, exactly as I love My Son. I will never stop loving you, no matter what. I am completely, utterly for you. I promise, on My own life, that I will do you good every day of your life. And because I control all things, that means My good is all you will ever experience from this time forward.” What if the Holy Spirit were to say to you, “I am with you wherever you go. I will purify your heart, and fill you with my courage.” Suppose Jesus were to cup your chin in His scar stained hand, look you in the eye and say, “You are My beloved, and I will never forsake you.” Now, would you ever be afraid that He was displeased with you? Would you ever fear the world? Your own flesh? The devil?
Would you, if this happened, ever be dissatisfied? Would you ever lose sleep? Would you ever be short with others? Would envy ever find a toe-hold in you? The truth, the objective 2+2=4 truth, the “Squirrels have bushy tails” truth, is that this is precisely what has happened. These are precisely the present day promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only problem is that I’m just crazy enough not to believe these promises.
Which is why I pray. I do not ask that God would do more for me, save that He would help me grasp all that He has already done. I do not ask Him that He would allow me to see the future, but that He would allow me to believe the present. I don’t ask to be made super spiritual. I don’t ask to be a pillar of piety. I don’t ask to become an icon of integrity. I only want to be sane, to submit to the blessed reality in which I already live. I only want to believe the One who is the Truth, whose Truth promises to set me free. Pray with, and for me.