Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why Pray (Installment #5---look below for the others if you missed them)

Why Pray?

I meet Christians very often who either say I don’t “how” to pray, or they say I do “not” pray. Usually, I just blink a couple of times and they are probably happier people that I don’t open my mouth and start talking because this book has been inside of me for 33 years and I don’t know anyone who has time for the conversation I would want to have with them. There is so much I could say to that. “Do you know how to talk on a telephone?” And, they would answer of course I do, then you know “how” to pray. It’s pretty close to the same thing. You are talking to someone you cannot see. You trust they are on the other end listening to your words. Even the people who say this to me may have had some experience with “Now I lay me down to sleep…” Or perhaps they heard grace at every meal.

This even came up in the Motion Picture, “Gravity” with Sandra Bullock. Whether you saw this movie or not there is a scene where she realizes that she is alone and probably going to die and what does she say? Paraphrasing, “I don’t even know how to pray. No one taught me to pray!!” She is so exasperated that she is crying out these words over and over and now her character wanted some knowledge of how it’s done. And, as a side note: We are going to return to the topic of the mechanics of prayer later.

Sometimes I don’t just blink in shock and I do respond with this, “How do you drive? How do you pull onto the freeway and drive down it with any peace at all if you didn’t pray first?” It’s freeway collisions that often result in fatalities. When you have a fender bender on the freeway you are likely to go into a spin, hit the guard rail and if you are going fast enough you might even flip your car over onto its top. What am I talking about? The fact that I am not going to drive anywhere without praying first.

This is a little side note but people also tell me that they don’t read the Bible. Pardon? Did you know that reading the Bible and praying really is our walk with the Lord? You could add to that, meeting with your fellow Christians, and giving money and few other things but “our” walk with Him really does boil down to prayer and Bible reading. So simple. However, we are going back to “why” we should pray other than to live through a drive on the highway.

If we could ask Samuel of the Old Testament why he prayed he would likely answer the way he did when confronting the Israelites. The people had recently gone against the Lord’s way and requested a king be placed over them as a nation. And here is what he said to them:

  "Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way. 24 Only fear the LORD, and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you." I Sam 12:23-24

 He was an elderly man with a lifelong relationship with God and this was not the first time Samuel prayed for Israel. He had just prayed for rain and for thunder to destroy their wheat crop. A prayer that was answered, I must add.

 Samuel himself was an answer to prayer. His mother Hannah was in long term anguish over her inability to conceive a child. Her husband’s other wife had not only managed to have several children but she taunted Hannah regarding this which was driving her rival toward bitterness. The entire account is found in the first chapter of I Samuel. The short version is Hannah prayed and the Lord answered.

 We already see two truths with Hannah and her son. One is the entire premise of prayer. We ask of the Lord and He does the answering. The second is that we, at times, have a responsibility to pray. Samuel felt it would be a sin against the Lord to stop praying for the people in his care.

 To be like Hannah is to “pour out our soul before the Lord.” When we get to that point of desperation we have a strong motive to pray. And when we get to old age we are very familiar with our responsibility to pray.

 In my own life I have had this sense of responsibility many times. One vital example would be from just a few years ago. I met a woman in the health care profession who shared with me her heartbreak of infertility. She was 27 years old at the time of our meeting and had never conceived. As a married couple her husband had done all he could in way of preparation. They were Christians; they had purchased a house and thought a little baby would come along at any moment. By time I met her years had already passed and she was heartsick. My response was to ask her if she had prayed about it. She claimed to not know how. (As I just explained to you this happens to me on a rather constant basis…it is the entire motivation for the book.)

I assured her I would pray for her. I felt that responsibility at the very first. I decided that fasting and prayer would be the best approach and I asked a few friends (a few of you are reading this right now) to join me in a day of prayer set aside for this young lady. I am very happy to report that she did conceive 3 days after our day of prayer. She was delighted and delivered a baby.

 This has happened many times in my life. The reason this happens has nothing to do with me and everything to do with the Lord. You see it was the Lord Himself who had closed Hannah’s womb and stopped her from conceiving. It was only after prayer that she did have a baby, in other words, after prayer the Lord God Almighty acted and answered her prayer. And with that we are back at a “why” God question that will go unanswered.

 I know that God got the glory for Hannah’s conception of Samuel and also for the health care worker. It is impossible for me, as a female human, to bow my head, fast from food and create a baby in another person. We can all agree to that. I lack the power to impregnate other people, that is obvious. It was an answer to prayer so that God would get the glory and those of you that prayed and fasted with me also know that. 

I conclude that there are times when God allows what appears to be a sad situation to occur and in His timing He nudges someone to prayer. All along He had a plan. All along He knew what was going to transpire. He used the miracle of prayer to get the glory, to have all concerned know that He is listening and has the power to bring about the answers.

So our Bible passages for this chapter have come from I Samuel which showed us the responsibility to pray when Sam said, “far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you.” But there is another well-known verse from James 4:2 “Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”

What did that just say? You don’t have what you want because you didn’t even ask. Now, James is a book that should not have verses pulled out of it without their context so please go read the whole thing. It is five chapters long so if you have ten spare minutes today you have the time to read the whole thing.

That is our second verse to answer “why” we should pray. Because if you do not … you may not receive all that much from the Lord. I do believe that He is answering things we do not ask for all day long. I’m sure we’ve been spared thousands of things that we did not even think to pray about. But sometimes we get stuck.

Just before I started writing today I washed some dishes by hand. My husband had just purchased a new pair of dishwashing gloves for me and they are size small. Nice man to think I have small hands, right? Well, it was a bit of a squeeze but I got my hands in there and did my work and then these purple “Playtex living gloves size small” were definitely living, on my hands, perhaps for the day. I was really stuck. That’s when it hit me the ruts we get into when we pray.

Do you ever do this? You pray a while and say to yourself, “That’ll do. I prayed for Grandma’s hip, to get that mortgage approved and for my husband to be promoted…that’ll do for today.” To me that is like flossing one tooth. Sure, it is time consuming to floss all of your teeth and it would be a cinch to floss only one of them, but shortcuts are not the Lord’s favorite way to go about it.

Here is what ought to happen instead. When we think about “why” we pray then we can see many reasons, one is to get the answers. If God can answer that prayer about that pregnancy then what else can He answer? That ought to be our motivator. If we pray for a good parking spot and get one right in front of the store then maybe we should praise God for that and then later, when you’re finished shopping, pray for Afghanistan.

Another answer to “why” to pray is that many, many people from the Bible did pray and they are our examples, including Jesus Christ.

Expand friends. Wiggle out of your gloves, get unstuck, get motivated by the answers you have had or the answers you are going to see in this book and pray more. It takes time and effort, I know. I am extremely familiar with that but I had to share with you how Samuel’s feeling of responsibility had impacted me and how James’ verse put it so succinctly. Those two verses alone were enough to get me started and I hope they are for you too.
Clevsea, copyright 2015

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