"When Solomon finished offering this entire prayer and supplication to the Lord, he arose from before the Lord’s altar, where he had knelt down with his hands stretched toward heaven." 1 Kings 8:54
Prayer to me is fascinating. On one hand I cannot fathom why the God of the universe even wants to connect and communicate with a ragtag group such as believers, and on the other hand, I am overwhelmed by the sheer joy it is to know I get to pray- any time, anywhere, about anything. Prayer is my lifeline always has been ever since I said yes to Messiah Jesus. I would sit for hours, literally hours at the beach in Santa Monica listening for His voice, talking back to Him, asking questions, reading scripture. Whatever I could do to learn more about this God, I did. Over the years people ask me how do I hear the voice of God and I often say, "I just listen?" I really don't know how to explain it better than that. I'm so obsessed with prayer and the act of praying that when I watch a suspenseful movie, or one that has an impossible situation, I find myself thinking, "why don't they just pray about it??"
Ya I know. It's just a movie.
But, art does imitate life, right?
Like the movies, few people I know drop to their nears in prayer when a situation arises much less on a day to day basis. Rather than criticize my brothers and sisters in the Lord I am learning to ask the question, "why is that?" so I am better able to understand. Not for selfish reason but I think to myself, if I can help these people see prayer is a thing, prayer works and prayer moves mountains, maybe they'd pray more? And then I think, if people prayed more, more would be accomplished for the kingdom of God! Lands healed, people raised from the dead, people cured of the incurable, children coming home, marriages restored, gifts and talents lived out without a thought of finances. The world would radically shift if believers prayed in the way our Savior taught us and as often as He did. These are all things on the very heart of our God. Imagine...
As I prayed over the why, there is one that keeps coming up over and over- doubt and giving up. If there were swear words in heaven, doubt would be the biggie no no never say word. Giving up would be right next to doubt.
Here's what happens- we pray, we don't see immediate change and so we give up. We begin to doubt we heard right. Or, we pray, we travail in the spirit and get so weary (rightfully so) and give up. The travailing in the spirit is not found in scripture, it's an idea that came in the 70s and 80s, was adopted by prayer teachers and now warriors assume we must labor in prayer before we get an answer. But Isaiah 53 tells us a different story. In Isaiah 53:12-12 we read that the Messiah suffered anguish and afterward the Father would be satisfied. In verse 12 it finishes beautifully with sharing how He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels. The word in Hebrew used for anguish is amal (yod mem lamed) and it means to travail, to toil, labor. In other words, Jesus travailed and interceded for us all and when He has finished, the Father was satisfied. I encourage you to study out these two verses, there is much much more meat than I am able to share in one blog write up. Oh it is rich, my friend.
If the first reason is the cause of not praying we must look at why someone would give up praying for something they are asking God for. Is it because they don't think they already have it? Ding! Ding! Ding!! Right, see there's where doubt weasels its way in causing one to give up. We pray, hope we have it, or hope we can have it and when it's not seen right away, we doubt it is ours for the taking and simply give up.
Let's put this in perspective. When your child wants dessert, don't they keep asking, "mommy can I have dessert?" even if you've told them yes, but they need to wait until after dinner? They ask for the millionth time, "But can I have it now???" And you patiently say, (riiiight?) "after dinner. The dessert is theirs, they know you have it to give, they know you said yes, so now they pester until it's in their hands. They may want it now, what kid doesn't. What the child doesn't quite get is we as parents have parameters for the child to meet before said dessert is distributed. It's totally within your will to give it, but the child needs to do something first, yes? Eat dinner! Depending on the age of the child, they may ask "can I have it now?" while you are preparing dinner. They aren't asking to make sure you'll give it- you've already established that. They're asking because they want it when they want it, but really, they aren't asking the right question are they?
Maybe they ought to ask, "how long until dinner, how much dinner is required to eat before I get that delicious dessert, do I need to do dinner dishes before we eat the dessert, do you want me to wait until everyone is finished with dinner to eat it?" Hmmm... ask better questions... Interesting concept...
Like a typical child, most believers ask for dessert, and when they don't get it right away, give up- assuming it was't God's will for them to have it. Things such as college money, rent, a spouse, a new car, the salvation of a friend or family member, clear direction for their future. Not an exhaustive list, just things I've heard over the years.
When we desire to grow up spiritually, as the Apostle Paul encourages us to do, we begin to ask mature questions. We understand He has already given us all things, and if it is taking longer than we expected, perhaps we aren't asking the right questions. we must grow up beyond, "can I have it?" We must mature into better more complete questions.
As a reminder, He has already given us the thing we are asking for.
According to 2 Peter 1:3 it's a guarantee. "...for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence."
If you want another proof to back up this bold claim, 1 Timothy 6:17 can seal the deal, "As for the rich in this present world, instruct them not to be conceited and arrogant, nor to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment."
His power has already granted us everything that has to do with this life, and we need not put our hope in riches because He's already provided everything for our enjoyment. In Greek it means, enjoyment. It's not even what we need, what we want, good things, fun things. Jesus talked about that with not running around all kindsa crazy like pagans do, our needs are a done deal. Matthew 6:32 When folks trust in riches it is because they don't know they already have access to goodies in life through Jesus. Trust me, I have a useless bulldog that I prayed 20 years for. Tell me our God doesn't answer frivolous prayers.
When we pray, we ask questions. We think end first, then start at the beginning. We don't begin blindly and pray without knowing what the end result will look like, right? Wait, do you? Oh well perhaps consider getting a clear picture first so you know exactly what it will look like in the end. You wouldn't get in your car and just start driving without any clue of the final destination is. Then you wouldn't do that in prayer either. It wouldn't make sense. And no, that is not what blind faith is. Blind faith is a muddied expression that in principle is interesting yet really does more harm than good when it comes to prayer. Actually, as I think about it, it's ought not to be a part of your vocabulary. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. How can you be assured of something you have no clue exists? How can you be fully convinced of that you may never see? and why would the Lord ask people who He calls sheep (the single most dumbest animal in creation) to blindly follow Him. John 14:26 shares that the Holy Spirit tells us all things and brings to our remembrance what the Lord told us already. Isn't that cool?
Ok so, in your prayer life do you know what the end is going to be? That son or daughter, do you see them saved and worshipping the Lord as you do? Then goodness, thank Him for it! Do you know what it will be like when you attend that college, pursue that career, write that book? Thank Him for the provision He has given (past tense)! And if you aren't seeing it with your natural eyes yet, ask Him, how long will this take, how many days, weeks, months do I need to pray? Is there a step I am missing, is there someone I should call and ask to partner in prayer with me? Is there a prophetic act You would like me to do? He will tell you. Again, going back to the car analogy, don't we know how long the drive will be? And don't our children ask near constantly "are we there yet, are we there yet?" So, if you being evil know how to answer questions to your children, how much more then does your perfect Heavenly Father know how to answer those questions?
Unlike a movie, our life is real and we have a real Father who is more than willing to give clear direction and answers. If you've been one to neglect prayer for a variety of reasons, whether giving up, doubt or any number of other reasons, I would encourage you to grow in maturity as Paul admonished us to do. We aren't little children anymore, we are growing into full grown sons of the Most High God. Let us begin to pray like it.