“Does God answer prayers?” I asked.
“Of course! Yes! Always!” People usually answer.
“Then, why don’t we pray more frequently?”
After a long silence, there are the usual excuses: “I’m busy! No time! God’s too busy! I don’t know what to say! I’m not worthy! I don’t know how!”
Our reasons may sound different but our predicament is basically the same. We, 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 more like a spare tire, seldom used until something goes flat.
Recently, we inserted blank cards in our church bulletins asking: “My question about prayer is…”
There were nearly 100 cards with questions, prayers and comments such as:
• How do we recognize answers to our prayers when they don’t come the way we expect?
• How do I block out stresses of the day to focus on prayer? My attempts feel futile.
• I sometimes forget God is listening to me. How can I listen to Him?
• How can I tell if what I “hear” is from God, or just my mind rationalizing?
How do we recognize God’s answers? Block out stresses? Is God listening? How can I tell? Even after years of church attendance, Sunday school, reading the Bible many people still have basic questions when it comes to prayer.
The writers of Psalms asked and answered similar questions. “I will tell you what he did for me. For I cried out for help, praising as I spoke. If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer. Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.” – Psalm 66:17-20
I cried out for help. I confessed my sin. God listened. He paid attention. He did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love. Praise God.
Prayer should be more about strengthening your relationship with God as much as presenting a list needing answers. But any good relationship needs commitment and a willingness to invest time; lots of time. Suppose you told your spouse or friend the reason you can’t spend more time with them is: “I’m too busy! 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?” What kind of friendship is that?
There were other questions from our congregation about prayer:
• Even though I pray continually, how do I make time apart to just be with God?
• How long is a prayer supposed to take? How many times a day are you supposed to pray?
• Does God hear my prayers if I have unconfessed sin?
• What happens or how do I overcome a “block” with prayer? I don’t feel worthy to pray.
How do I make time? How much time? What if I’ve messed up, have a “block,” feel unworthy?
Psalm 25 promises: “No one who trusts in you will ever be disgraced, but disgrace comes to those who try to deceive others. Show me the right path, O lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me.” – Psalm 25:3-4
In other words, if we approach God with an attitude of trust with no attempt to deceive then the God who loves us will never disgrace us. “The lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray. He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way. The Lord leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey.” (25:8-10)
Prayer is about seeking a deeper relationship with God so “making time” and figuring “how much time” are decisions all of us wrestle with. What’s important is to keep trying. Having “messed up” many times myself, it is good to know that God will never abandon me or you.
Paul wrote to a church answering their questions on 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)
Don’t worry; pray. Tell God and thank him. Experience God’s peace to guard your hearts.
Don’t worry; pray is sound advice, yet the questions persist:
• When many pray in your name for healing, why isn’t that person healed?
• Why is it easier to pray for others or worldwide issues but difficult to pray for ourselves?
• I ask God for direction but how can I pray for guidance?
• How can we maintain faith when there is so much hatred?
We want answers and have a hard time even understanding peace much less experiencing peace. We worry rather than trust. We complain rather than thank. We make excuses rather than confess which ultimately solves nothing and often causes emotional, physical and spiritual harm.
No wonder, so many people are struggling with their faith, staying away from churches and even questioning their belief in God.
In other words, we need to know more, practice more and trust more in God and how we communicate with God through prayer.
Next week: More about Prayer and the answers we need!