May 28, 2007

Prayer Challenges

I’ve a reminder on my computer in MS Outlook®. It pops up every few days and says, “Prayer is Jesus breathing.”

Prayer is hard work. Some things I’ve prayed about for years without seeing any answers. Some prayer requests are huge and, without faith in an omnipotent God, they seem impossible. Others seem so trivial that I laugh at myself for asking. However, the Bible tells me to “Pray without ceasing” and as I try to obey that, prayer, no matter what form it takes, grabs my time, steals my energy, and demands my faith. The pop-up helps by reminding me that Jesus lives in me, that “He lives forever to intercede for me” and that praying is a team effort.

Today’s verse is from Mark 11. Jesus says, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.”

Of course this is not about a magic lamp that I can rub and get my wishes. This is about asking Almighty God to act, to make things happen, to change something, provide needs. It is depending on Him to do the best thing, but also about asking in total faith without doubting.

Total faith is when both my spirit and the Holy Spirit agree. If it is just me thinking God will do something, that’s presumption, rash, wishful thinking, often selfish, and certainly out of the will of God. If it is just the Spirit urging me to pray and I am ignoring it, then I’m also out of step with God. When the unsaid ‘prayer’ is answered (because God is at work in spite of me), I will miss the event or dismiss it, or at best be excited that God did something “and I didn’t even ask for it.”

Prayer, as God has been reminding me, is a partnership. His will is revealed in my heart through the Holy Spirit, and I respond by talking to Him about it. My ‘prayer’ is the expression of a heart that is open to God, an expression of Jesus speaking to His Father using my mouth. It is like playing in God’s orchestra, making music in tune with what He is doing.

That’s why the Bible says if I ask in faith, He will do it. Faith means the request is that kind of trust that is yielded to and listening to Him. Faith asks things that God puts in my heart to ask, and of course those are things that He is going to do.

I still don’t understand why God chooses to work through prayer and make me a partner in His work. He doesn’t need me. At the same time, He makes clear to me that I am to partner with Him in prayer. This is an amazing and humbling privilege.

My list today includes a child needing surgery, a man under a voodoo curse, a professor whose visa application has been stalled, a friend who needs to sell her house, and a host of other things. As I pray, I need to listen. I know the needs, but only God knows what He plans to do about these things. If He speaks to my heart and if I pray what He says back to Him, then He will do exactly as He promises in Mark 11—whatever I ask for, I will have.

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