“Does God answer prayer?” I once asked a class.
“Of course… yes… always,” were the quick and enthusiastic replies.
“Then, why don’t we pray more frequently?” I said. A long uncomfortable silence filled the room.
Finally, the excuses began pouring out: “I’m too busy… No time… God’s too busy to listen to me… I don’t know what to say… I’m not worthy… I don’t know how…”
Our individual reasons may sound different but our predicament is basically the same. We (confession time: including me) do not fully appreciate the importance and power of prayer. Prayer should be as critical and functional as the steering wheel on your car. “Without you, O Lord, I can go nowhere!” Yet, for most of us, prayer is actually more like the spare tire. In other words: “Don’t call us… we’ll call when we need You!”
Prayer is supposed to be an ongoing relationship with almighty God more than an opportunity to present a wish list to a heavenly Santa Claus. But any good relationship needs commitment and a willingness to invest time… lots of time. Suppose you told a trusted spouse or friend the reason you couldn’t be with them is: “I’m too busy… No time… You’re probably too busy to listen to me… I don’t know what to say… I’m not worthy… I don’t know how…?” Ouch, that hurts!
Here is God’s promise on the subject of prayer: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and mind as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Our tendency is to worry isn’t it? Yet we know worry solves nothing and often causes emotional, physical and spiritual harm. Prayer offers a means to give our worries to God, who in return promises a supernatural peace… a peace far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. Could it be as simple as that? Yes, but it requires a commitment to pray regularly.
Here is a basic formula for prayer that has helped me over the years:
Praise God: Praise sets the tone and reminds you who God really is. Try looking at some of the Psalms and reading them out loud to get you started: Psalm 8, 19 & 148.
Confession: A good relationship strengthens with honesty. No sane doctor would offer a cure without hearing what hurts. Admitting your faults promotes spiritual healing.
Listen: Sometimes, it’s easier to talk than to really listen. Easy but not smart. Quiet times are often where you will find direction. Listening allows God to speak to your soul.
Ask for Help: This part becomes more meaningful when you take the time to praise, confess and listen. This is when you literally learn to stop worrying and start praying.
Keep a Journal: It may be the most important part of my prayer ministry. The journal is where disappointments, struggles, joys and miracles are recorded and remembered.
“Does God answer our prayers?” Yes, but are we doing our part?
Two people with similar difficulties begin to pray. One expects results and finishes his prayer frustrated and confused. Months later, the problem and the prayer is forgotten. Another prays looking to spend a few quiet moments with a trusted friend and completes her prayer feeling more content and at peace. Over the next few months while recording her thoughts in a journal, she notices progress with the problem itself and especially in her ability to cope. She thanks God.
Think about it. You have a unique opportunity to be in a relationship with God: One that can make an authentic difference in your life and the life of anyone who comes in contact with you. So, what are you waiting for? God? He’s been waiting patiently for you a long, long time.