“Is anyone listening? Is anyone listening?! Please, somebody help me! My husband has collapsed, and I don’t know how to fly a plane?” Those were the words of a desperate woman whose husband, an accomplished pilot, died suddenly of a heart attack.
She had not been enthusiastic about flying but she went along, reluctantly. She never paid any attention to how he operated the controls. Now, she was, soaring through the air with no idea how to keep the plane aloft or even more importantly how to bring it in for a landing.
Her only thought was to press the button on the microphone as she saw her husband do so many times before and pray that someone would pick up her desperate signal, “Is anyone listening?”
Fortunately, someone was listening. A seasoned pilot came on the air and calmly instructed her step by step to a perfect landing.
I wish I could say this is how prayer works. We have a deeply felt need. We bow our heads. We pray, “Is anyone listening?”
Suddenly a voice answers and calmly instructs step by step until all our needs are met and our problems solved. I wish it was that simple.
But it’s not that simple. We pray but sometimes wonder if anyone is listening. We trust that God is listening, but…
The disciples ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. So, Jesus provides what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” Again and again, Jesus went off, often by himself, to pray. Now he teaches a model prayer to guide us. It’s a prayer anyone can pray, and most have memorized. The simple words challenged us for over two thousand years and continue to guide us today.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Prayer has never been natural or easy for me, even today. I tend to be a doer. Early on, as a pastor, I didn’t have an active prayer life. I read the Bible and other spiritual books, but I spent very little time in prayer. There always seemed to be something else to do.
In my first year as a pastor, I attended a seminar on the importance and the power of prayer. The goal was to spend a minimum of one hour a day with God in prayer. At the time that seemed outrageous. “Where am I going to find one hour every day to pray. And when I find that hour, what am I supposed to say and do to fill up all that time?”
Even as a pastor, I wasn’t convinced that spending a lot of time in prayer was worthwhile. After all, I was called to do something. I was called to get results. I was so wrong.
I walked out of the seminar a believer in the importance of prayer. It’s taken a few years to find my own active prayer life. and I still wonder at times if anyone is listening. But I know prayer is the most important part of my relationship with God and a critical part of my job as pastor.
God wants us to pray, frequently and persistently, not because we will be rewarded although that is certainly a benefit but simple because God loves us and wants to spend time with us. Our persistence in prayer will enable us to more truly love and appreciate God.
Prayer is time spent in the presence of One who is far greater than ourselves. Prayer is not an attempt to bend the will of God too our desires. Prayer should be a sincere attempt to submit our will to the will of God.
A commitment to prayer and spiritual growth just may be the most important commitment you ever make. As Christians, we prepare for Easter during a season we call Lent. I can’t think of a better way to prepare than by renewing and strengthening your dedication to pray regularly.
Jesus’ earthly journey follows an unbelievably difficult path, but he never wavers, and the completion of his mission ultimately results in our salvation. I am convinced Jesus’ life of prayer and closeness to God gave him the courage and strength to carry on, all the way to the cross. I am equally convinced that amidst our difficulties, prayer and spiritual growth will also support and sustain us.
I asked earlier, “Is anyone listening? Is anyone listening?” I assure you, the answer is, “Yes, God is always listening.”