“Is anybody listening? Is anybody 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 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 and pray that someone would pick up her desperate signal, “Is anybody listening?” Fortunately, someone was listening. A seasoned pilot came on the air and calmly instructed her step by step to a landing.
I wish I could say that is a perfect analogy of how prayer works. We have a deeply felt need. We bow our heads. We pray, “Is anybody listening?” Suddenly a voice answers and calmly instructs us step by step until all our needs are met and our problems solved. I wish it was that simple.
There was a cartoon in which a child said with disgust: “Uncle Brad doesn’t have a job. Sis still doesn’t have a date. Grandma is sick. I’m tired of praying for this family and not getting results.”
Prayer is sometimes like that. At times, it seems no one is listening, and we don’t always get results or at least the results hoped for.
The disciples once asked 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.
Prayer doesn’t come easy for me. I tend to be a doer. Even after becoming a pastor, I am more about doing things for the church. I didn’t have an active prayer life. I read the Bible and other spiritual books, but I spent little time in prayer. There always seemed to be something else to do.
I attended a seminar on the importance and power of prayer. The goal was to spend 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. What am I supposed to say and do to fill up that time?
Even as a pastor, I wasn’t convinced spending a lot of time in prayer was worthwhile. After all, I was called to do something. I was called to get results, people needed me.
Did you catch the arrogance of those words? I walked out of the seminar humbled and believing in prayer. It’s taken me a few years to find my own way and no, I seldom spend an hour a day. But I know prayer is important when it comes to my relationship with God and my duty as pastor.
The Lord’s prayer is meant to be a foundation, not just another prayer we memorize and say during church. Each line offers something to pause and pray about. Jesus followed an incredibly difficult path, but he never wavered. Jesus’ prayer life gave him the strength to carry on.
I am equally convinced prayer and spiritual growth will support and sustain us. I asked earlier, “Is anyone listening? Is anyone listening?” I assure you, the answer is, “Yes, someone is always listening. You are loved and you are valued.”
“Answered Prayer” is often listed as written by an unknown Confederate Soldier, but we don’t really know who wrote it. What I do know is this prayer is special:
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve.
I was made weak, that I might learn to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things.
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy.
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of others.
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life.
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
Is anyone listening? Yes! Count on it! Depend on it! Trust in it!