Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Prayer Works.........?

I have to admit--I don't know whether to clinch my teeth or to let out a big ole sigh. Discombobulation has been my constant companion for a couple of weeks now, and it's really getting old.

Given that, it's understandable why I'm fast losing patience with what I used to could just turn my head away and not deal with it. Here lately, it's as if someone else has my head and forcing to me to see things the way they are.

For example, way, WAY too much credit is given to 'the power of prayer" (and I use that phrase loosely) If prayer indeed does work, then this world is in for a heap of trouble. I suppose the Muslims would agree that prayer works--after all, they prayed to Allah before heading out to destroy the Twin Towers, and look! Their prayers worked! Perhaps some well meaning Wiccans prayed to Mother Earth for a healing of a friend; or perhaps they prayed for revenge. Of course, Christians every where pray to Jehovah to intervene in situations. You see my point? If it is indeed the prayer that's doing the working, what do we need all these gods for?

Prayer works.

According to this, what's doing the working? Prayer is. What is it that prayer is doing? Working. Is there any mention of any god of any religion in there? Nope. None at all. So this phrase could be adopted by any fanatical of any religion in honor of their self effort to control their god.

I beg to differ. Prayer isn't what's doing the work, God is Who's doing the work. How arrogant is it to claim that I had any thing at all with dictating how God should intervene in situations? Have you ever noticed, when prayers are sent up to God (or any other god of your choice) and people get the desired response, the chest is often puffed out with the, "See? Prayer DOES work"phrase.  However, when the desired outcome is NOT manifested, people hang their heads in solomon reverence, and declare that "God knows best". Gee, what a difference. All puffed up when we get our way, and who do we give credit to? Us. Ourselves. Our prayers. But boy howdy, let the answer be 'no', and we're quick to give God credit for THAT one. Why can't God get the credit regardless of how the situation turns out? Does anyone else see anything wrong with that picture?

Now, before all the religious folks start sending me hate mail, let me state right here that I am NOT anti-prayer. I'm anti-giving-my-prayer-all-the-glory-when-God-is-the-one-doing-the-work mindset. Should we pray then? Of course! We are encouraged many times over in the Scriptures, in both the Old Covenant and New Covenant, to pray and commune with God. Am I saying that we shouldn't ask God for intervention? Of course not. We are encouraged to make our requests known to God. "Be anxious for nothing, but in every situation, by prayer and thanksgiving, make your request known unto God" Philippians 4:6.  Here Paul is encouraging the Phillipians. Let's read a little further down in that chapter...
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
These folks apparently were getting ancy about something, and Paul is encouraging them to renew their minds--rejoice! Don't be anxious! Talk to God! Think on things that are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable.. etc. Do this habitually. The peace of God will be with you. 

Looks to me that prayer isn't the magic wand that conjures up solutions to the wish list--prayer is helping us get our minds back where they belong--on God, and not our situations. On God, and not our self-effort. On God. Period. 

I can share with you my days of the "Name it and claim it" phase in my life. I prayed so hard for God to heal me of my hearing impairment, but He never did. The doctors couldn't fix it, and God wouldn't fix it. I would pray, fast, memorize/quote scripture, confess my healing--you name it, I did it. I'd seen other people get healed of this or that, surely God could heal me as well? No doubt that He could, but it soon became obvious that although He could, He wasn't going to. I was ashamed, thinking (incorrectly so) that everyone was thinking that this mighty church girl didn't have the faith to muster up a healing from God. Reality was, they weren't thinking of me. Like myself, they were thinking of themselves. It wasn't until one Wednesday night, the preacher was trying to preach on one topic, but God kept bringing him back to where Paul finally realized that God's grace is sufficient for him. Wowzers! If Paul--who was really a dynamic Christian, couldn't 'muster up enough faith' to "make" God remove the thorn in his flesh, why should I be ashamed that I couldn't? I began to learn what Paul knew: God's grace is sufficient for me. My faith is in my God, not my good works, and not my prayers. 

However, on another note, there have been what I call some other important prayers on my part, that God decided to favor. One such incident involved my Granny. Now, you've got to understand that to us grandkids, whenever we see the azaleas, we think of Granny. Her yard was full of every color, and Springtime at Granny's was heavenly. There was so much color splashed around their old homestead, it was indescribable. Then, one year, the inevitable happened. My beloved Granny passed away. It was starting to show signs of Spring and God called her home. Now, at that time, I was very confused about salvation. I was involved in a congregation where half of them believed in eternal security, half of them believed one could back slide into hell, and I honestly didn't know WHICH side was right. I just worked all the harder, so I wouldn't have to face the contradictions. As far as I was concerned, my Granny walked on water, so I knew she was in heaven.


As it so often does, skeletons started falling out of the closet as the family sat around and shared memories of Granny. They started sharing some things that she did that shocked me! Oh no! Was Granny in heaven? How could she be, if she did *gasp* THAT?!?! My chaos hit me dead in the face. Were we eternally secure or not? I'd heard both arguments, and to me, they both had some pretty valid points. I didn't know what to believe.

I couldn't bear it if my beloved Granny was in the eternal flames. I still remembered my Granny that walked on water, loved me when nobody else did, had unending patience with me, baked Christmas cookies with me. No way she was in hell--was she?

Soon after, I stood in front of a small azalea bush and prayed. I asked God to let me know if Granny was in heaven. I asked, that if she was, just let the azalea bush bloom. That would be a feat, because I definitely didn't have the green thumb that she did. I hesitated praying that, because what if the bush didn't bloom? Did that mean Granny was in hell, or was God saying, "It's none of your business"? He'd be right of course, it wasn't any of my business. None the less, I felt compelled to ask that. God already knew my heart, I just had to speak it for my sake. With a trembling heart, I humbly asked God for confirmation. I acknowledged that it was really none of my business, but I desperately wanted to know. Was Granny burning in hell because of some of the stuff she did? 
I prayed what I prayed, then went on about my life, purposely ignoring the bush. I refused to treat the bush any differently than I did, as to not 'tip the balance' of God's answer (as if!)

Imagine my surprise, when one day, coming home from town, I notice this pink ball in the yard. Thinking the wind blew it from the neighbor's yard, I went to pick it up--it wasn't the ball. It was the azalea bush in full bloom, not a green leaf exposed, so saturated in flowery blossoms that it was. I cried in sheer relief. That was God through and through, reaching down to comfort his child. You see, this bush wasn't that healthy, and at the most, it would have 3 or 4 blossoms each spring. This one season, it was as if God had simply draped a sheet of pink over the bush. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Granny was in heaven, and that God didn't mind me asking that in prayer. The Azalea shrub died soon after that glorious bloom. 

Other examples are less glorious, but important to me, just the same. Back in my college days, I had to travel two towns over for night classes and internship. One such night, I desperately needed a certain textbook that was not to be found anywhere. I cleaned my house spotless looking for it, called the classes two towns over in hopes that they had it, and nobody had seen it. In desperation, I asked God to help me find it. I knew that, in the light of healing cancer, mending broken marriages, that a stupid textbook wasn't really that important, but I prayed it, anyway. No sooner than my prayer was through, the thought came to me to look inside one of my bags. Sure enough there it was. Did my prayer work? No. God did the work. If my prayer 'did' anything, it was to teach me that my dependence should be squarely on God. No matter how huge (like Granny's destination) or how small (that stupid textbook), God is the one I go to. 

Prayer is indeed important. Communicating with God is essential to a relationship with Him. Prayer however, does not 'work' out your wish list. God works His will into our lives. So pray without ceasing and realize your dependency on Him. You'll be glad you did!

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