How to pray:
I have been praying for a long, long time for four things:
- For God to protect and nurture and bless my marriage.
- To have financially prosperity.
- To be slim, fit, trim and healthy.
- To look after, and guide, Baby Girl through life – to parent her and love her where hubby and I will so often fail.
None of these are in any order of importance – because they are all equally important. When I feel like I am failing as a wife, number one becomes most important. When I need to buy Baby Girl’s school uniform and I have no money, the second one then is the most important. When I feel like I am gaining weight, or I feel all anxious about eating, then its number three that takes the prayer lead. And number four takes top notch when I am failing as a mother. These four issues are important to me, and while I have seen answer to prayer in all these aspects that I am praying about, the answers have been gentle and slow. I also realise that that there are barriers rooted in fear in my mind that need to be broken down first.
A little while ago, Sheila Wray Gregoire blogged about prayer and basically, she was saying that prayer is about drawing closer to God – not to get your prayers answered, but because of who He is. If I go to church simply to get my financial prayers answered, I am trying to manipulate God. And that is a prayer He will never answer. What Sheila is saying is firmly rooted in Matthew 6:33 –
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
But, reading that post, and realising that so few of my prayers have ever been answered, and I certainly can’t say I’ve experienced a miracle in my prayer life, I started asking myself – do I really know how to pray? And I am afraid, that there are many things in my life that lead me to conclude that I do not really know how to pray.
Prayer should always be about submission to God’s will; it should not be about convincing God to do yours. Sheila Wray Gregoire
He understood God is not something to do, He’s someone to know, and prayer is how we engage fully in our relationship with Him. Proverbs 31
And as I have been pondering this, I realised that Jesus himself taught us how to pray – and that should be the basis for all our prayers:
Matthew 6:9-13 KJV
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
The most important is: Who are we praying to? Sometimes I think that we view God as a magical puppet master, or a Father Christmas where we can just click our fingers and our prayers will be answered and that is the very first mistake we make. God is not here to act as a Father Christmas and answer our prayers every time we click our fingers. God wants to bless and give us abundant life, but those blessings pale in comparison to the importance of drawing closer to God. You see, prayer is about giving us strength to face life, about changing our hearts to become more like Christ, but even more importantly it is about drawing closer to God – not for what He can do for us, but for Who He is, and for what He has already done (giving His son to die in our place so that we may have eternal life). At its very essence, prayer should humble us – because we have the opportunity of building a relationship with the most-high God. And then, and if it is according to God’s will, He will bless us with the desires of our hearts.
How often do I forget this?
All the time.
I keep finding myself thinking – why won’t God answer my prayers? He created the heavens and the earth in six days, and yet He can’t or won’t answer my prayer. How would you feel if your son or daughter only spent time with you when they wanted something? Well, I would be pretty hurt – when my daughter comes to me to love me, not because she wants something, but just because she is loving me there is no greater feeling in the entire world. But, when she is having one of those “I want” days, it can drive me quite around the bend. And yet, I will always try and see that her needs (and her wants – where I can and if I can and if they are in her best interest) are met. She never need have an “I want” day or be demanding – I love her and want what is best for her, and I will give her what I can give her.
How is it any different with God?
Why do we spend time with Him?
Only to get what we want? Or perhaps to try and spend some quality time with this God who created the universe, and wants to commune with lowly us.
I never seem to get this right. In the mornings, I hit the ground running with so much to do. I am at work all day, and at night, its homework, and packing bags, and doing washing, and cleaning up. It is hard to fit time in. And right there lie the crux of the matter – we shouldn’t need to fit God in. But, it is hard to find the time to truly pray and worship. So, what do you do?
You give what you can give. And you do what you can do. God is not standing over us with a whip every time we forget to pray, or spend time with Him.
Five minutes in the morning, if that’s all you’ve got, but more importantly, take God with you in your day. You can pray as you drive to work, you can worship as you sit at your computer, you can talk to God as you fetch your children from school. It is hard to set time aside – and you do need to make a plan to do that – but I think it is more important to take God with you into your day, wherever you may be going or whatever you may be doing.
I find it interesting that in the Lord’s Prayer – the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray – talking about Heaven and God’s will comes before asking for forgiveness of our sins.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
It is first about God’s kingdom and His will – then about meeting our needs, only after that is it about asking for forgiveness. How often do we in the Christian church focus on sin, and forget about God’s kingdom, His will or our needs? And I think there is wisdom in that – we can’t ever pull people away from the grasp of sin, whatever that sin may be, if we’re not first meeting their needs through love and kindness. And we’re not going to meet their needs, if we’re not first looking at God’s will and His kingdom. And what is God’s will:
To love and honour God first and then to love and honour our neighbours as ourselves.
Please note – I am not a minister or in ministry. I am not a missionary, or a psychologist, or anything other; this is just my own observations and my own experiences and my own thoughts. But, I do believe that Jesus taught us to pray in a certain way for a reason.
And if there is an issue you have been praying about that God has not yet answered, you need to wait and trust God. This God who created such perfect order in the universe, and knows you more intimately than you know yourself, knows what He is doing and how He will bring about the answers to your prayers. It could be slow – in fact, it will probably be slow as He changes our hearts and characters in the process, but it could be quick – a miracle.
Psalm 139:13-16 English Standard Version (ESV)
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
My point is that God knows us – and He knows which prayers to answer and how best to answer them. It is hard to wait. Hubby and I have been battling financially for the last ten years. And while I don’t understand why God has not yet answered this prayer, I can trust Him on two issues: One, He knows what is best for us, and two, He will provide for our every need according to His riches in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 King James Version (KJV)
19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
It is so hard. I would like nothing more than to have our financial issues resolved – permanently. NO more debt, no more living on credit cards, no more living from month to month, no more fear of what we can and cannot afford. But, perhaps God is using this to teach us to rely on Him? I don’t know, but I do know that I have grown in my trust and reliance on God over the last couple of years.
Sin is a terrible thing – we think it is okay, but it destroys lives and marriages and homes. And ourselves. I tend to forget that God is holy – so holy that the priests in the Old Testament couldn’t even come into the Holy of Holies, and when they did – it was only once a year, and they had to wear a bell so that if God struck Him down, the people outside could hear that the bell had stopped ringing and pull him out. In this world of ours, where anything and everything goes, we often forget that God is holy. He can’t stand sin. And I get arrogant. I can get full of pride – I want to argue, “I didn’t mean it”; “It didn’t do any harm”; “No one will know”… But none of that will fool God. He knows. He always knows. And to be in God’s presence, we need to ask Him to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us.
God did that through His son. He made it possible for us to approach Him directly. But we need to ask – we are human and we are frail, and we will fall to temptation’s lure each and every day.
Then, when we have asked for forgiveness:
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Forgive us Father – then lead us away. Forgive us – and lead us away from temptation. It is no good to be forgiven, and then to give into temptation time and time again. That is why Jesus taught us to ask God to lead us way from temptation. So that once we are forgiven, that sin no longer has a hold over us. We are not being led into temptation – I don’t know many people who can stand up to temptation and win the battle. Most give in at some point. It is hard and we are weak. It’s like asking a woman to give up chocolate at that time of the month. Really? Not going to happen if there is chocolate lying around in front of me. It will be very quickly gone into my tummy – but take the chocolate away. And now I stand a chance. Maybe, just maybe, this time I won’t need to give into eating the chocolate. It’s not there – I am not as easily tempted.
And finally, it is God’s kingdom. And He will one day come and restore what is His. And I think that is so important and something I forget all the time. What is here isn’t really mine. At the end of the day, everything belongs to God. And He will come and claim back what is His.
It is so hard, isn’t it? There are so many voices calling for us – so many demands, and temptations, and things to do. So many check lists, and routines, and little bits of life thrown at us.
But, as I posted today, God loves us, and ultimately we all be long to Him.
Our decision is whether we’re going to fight that, or accept it and accept it by accepting His son as our saviour.
I am so grateful that God loves us so much and will not leave us alone. He is with us every step of the way – and the next time we bow our heads to pray, perhaps we should remember that.