The Power of Prayer

I have people in the midwest that I am praying for right now, a family in China as well.

I have people in Florida that I pray for daily and weekly.

I have people, new friends here in Sulphur, that I pray for regularly.

Some of the prayers are general in detail, others specific to situations.

To be honest, I am not really sure exactly how prayer works and recently had a light bulb moment that my own belief in the sovereignty of God, was at times, a stumbling block to my prayers.

I’m not questioning His sovereign rule over all things; that all things come by His hand. Rather, I don’t understand necessarily how my prayers fit within that and rather than ask as a child fully expecting a father to answer I was qualifying my prayers with too much, “If it’s your will…” not really believing an answer would come. Sort of like it was becoming a get out of jail free card I was giving to God so I didn’t have to be sad or angry or disappointed if he didn’t answer the way I wanted or seemingly at all.

He is not bound by my will or the desired outcomes I am asking for; I am bound by His will and the work He is doing in the lives and situations of those I pray for and about. I don’t have to remind Him of what I might want and qualify it with “Really Lord, only if it’s what You truly want.” His perfect will is always being done. There is comfort in that.

Something else about prayer that I just realized the other morning is the way prayer connects us, the prayerer and the prayee. Obviously the idea of entering into each others suffering and bearing with one another as a part of praying is real and true. (This is one of the reasons I think ministers can be worn down and fatigued to the point of burnout. When they truly walk alongside their congregants, praying for them in all the various and sundry situations we humans go through, they are taking on the burden of that person. So they may not be battling cancer or emotional trauma or what have you but they are taking on a weight that is multiplied by the number of people they minister to. The tip here is that as you pray for your pastor you help ease the burden he takes on as he prays for you and others.)

We don’t live in a vacuum. Our actions, sinful and otherwise, have an affect on the other people around us. Prayer doesn’t happen in a vacuum either and the effect works, in my opinion, in a sort of reverse way in that when I pray on someone’s behalf it can also cause me to be changed or challenged either directly or indirectly in some manner.

Here is an example of a direct connection. If I am praying that my daughter Claire would love correction, something we should all love, then I need to also pray for myself and how I am correcting her. Am I correcting her out of frustration or annoyance? Am I correcting her with a view toward godliness or just wanting her to do things the way I think they ought to be done? Is being “right” more important to me than her personhood? Am I nitpicking?

My prayer for her to love correction should cause me to examine my own reasons for wanting her to love correction as well as my own willingness to be corrected.

Indirectly, I may be challenged to love my husband better as I pray for a friend who wishes to be more joyful in her submission to her husband. I may become convicted of areas where I ought to practice more acts of mercy by providing a meal or dropping a get well soon card in the mail for someone who is sick. If I see someone who seems to be struggling with pride or some other sinful behavior as I pray for them it can be a good way for me to check myself for those same besetting sins in my own heart. We tend to see them more quickly and certainly more clearly in those around us. At least I do.

Prayer changes us in ways I cannot even comprehend much less really understand but I am becoming more and more enchanted and grateful for what a gift this tool is in the christian life. I believe genuine prayer is going to grow compassion and repentance, contentment and joy within our spirits; our connection to our Father and to each other is only deepened and strengthened by this odd, hard to understand practice.

And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will 
he hears us. I John 5:14

May we be confident is our asking, expecting our Father who loves us to answer.

What are you praying for?

Prayer

I really don’t understand how it works but I know that it does. I know that it is holy communication. I know that He hears us, indeed says we should pray without ceasing. I know it is not a magic lamp we rub and out pops the Holy Spirit to do our bidding but again, He listens to the cries and petitions of His children.

Sometimes, having an adult autistic child has its moments. Things can get edgy and volatile but I have learned that when it seems a storm might be brewing that I can shoot a text to my Mother and sisters asking for prayers on our behalf and Sam’s,  and things will typically settle down. It’s uncanny really, especially because I know that prayer is not some kind of magic trick but rather God hearing His children and granting what they ask in His Son’s name.  Last time this happened I asked them which one was not praying I would loose these last stubborn twenty pounds. (Okay, I know that goes back to treating prayer like the magic rub on the genie lamp but it was good for a laugh.)

But I know that sometimes praying can feel like the God and me version of the child tugging on your shirt who is incessantly asking for something all day every day. Or it just feels less than alive and genuine. Or like I am doing all the talking. Or that my words are thick and clumsy.

A friend recently shared this excerpt from AW Tozer’s sermon Make Time To Pray and I found it helpful:

Am I faithful in prayer?” Ask yourself that. “Well, I’m busy,” you say. Yes, you are busy. So was the Lord Jesus. So was Martin Luther. Luther said, “In the morning I have so much work to do that I am going to have to pray longer today.” Are you faithful in prayer, and do you meditate on the Word? How much of Scripture have you read lately? Have you read it with meditation and tenderness? These are a few questions. You can answer them evasively and the snow lies there. Or you can answer them honestly and see the springtime come to your heart. Put yourself in the hands of the One who loves you infinitely. If you have failed Him, you will have to admit that there is a rut or snow on the meadow. Tell Him so–don’t hide it. He will not turn His back in anger and say, “You disappointed me and betrayed me.” There is a balm in Gilead, plenty of it. The balm and healing in the blood of the Lamb will get you out of the rut.”

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My prayer life is so much fuller when I have been having a steady diet of His word. And honestly, it’s His words that often spark prayers and there is something comforting and powerful at the same time in knowing that I am praying His words back to Him.

What a gift prayer is to us.

 

A Morning Prayer

O Lord, as I cross the threshold of this day
I commit myself, soul, body, affairs, and friends to Thy care.
Watch over, keep, guide, sanctify and bless me.
Let those around me see me
living by Thy Spirit,
transformed by a renewed mind,
clad in the whole armor of God,
showing holiness in all my doings.
May I speak each word as if my last word,
and walk each step as my final one.
If my life should end today, let this be my best day.
In the name of our Lord Jesus I pray–
Amen
A Puritan Prayer

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Weak Desires Weak Prayers

I wrote the bulk of this post Saturday morning. That evening we went to dinner with some friends and the subject of prayer came up and man, it was like God went from a gentle nudge to a solid thump on my back. It was a conversation that brought about some startling awareness and conviction that I am still sorting out.  I hope you will be encouraged and challenged to consider your own prayer life.  Prayer is a deep and mysterious fountain of intimacy between God and his people but also a source of intimacy within our human relationships. I may not know exactly what God is doing right now with all the various parts and pieces of things in my life but I know he is doing something. Somehow, prayer is a big part of that.

In his book The Weight of Glory CS Lewis says, “It would seem, that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in the slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

That quote came to mind this week as I was reading the book of John as part of the Summer Bible Reading Challenge, specifically chapters fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen. In each chapter he specifically tells his disciples that whatever they ask for in his name he will do it. Three of the four times it is mentioned in the context of working, abiding, and bearing fruit. The fourth time he tells them that the Father will grant what they ask in his name so that their joy might be full.

It’s clear that Jesus isn’t giving them, or us, a blank check to ask for materials things necessarily, although those things aren’t out of the realm of possibility.  Rather we are to ask for anything that will bring honor and glory to the Father through us. We also know from James that often we don’t get what we ask for because we ask for the wrong things or for the wrong reasons.

I don’t know about you but sometimes I don’t think I know what I ought to pray for, not for myself or others. I read about people like George Mueller and Amy Carmichael and marvel at the faith they displayed in their prayer life.

I mean, I know what to pray for sometimes for myself and others. Sometimes it is just generic basic stuff. Other times there are specific needs so it’s easy to know what and how to pray.

But this week I am wondering if I am too easily satisfied with the quick prayer, with the first words, even Bible verses, that come to mind so readily. What do I really want to pray for in the lives of my husband and my children? My extended family and my friends? My church? Myself?

I guess I am wondering if my prayers have been half-hearted in a sense because I have failed to imagine what God can do, what he would do, beyond just the practical. I think that kind of prayer life, the one that is full and robust and hopeful, must also be one rooted in the Word. The prayer life that flourishes is one born out of abiding in Christ. It comes from a life that is bearing the fruit of righteousness that comes from him. It is a life that feeds on the Word and dares to pray big things because it is a life that knows God is infinitely bigger than whatever it can imagine.

May we not be too easily pleased, to easily satisfied, with basic prayers. May our prayers find us stepping into the vast ocean of promises God gives to his people, swimming in every spiritual blessing in heavenly places that he has given us.

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