How about a few new prayers?

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Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

Every week, the prayer of the church includes petitions based on the readings for the day, for pastors and missionaries, for our nation and leaders, for the sick and sorrowing, and for those who will receive the sacrament. Then, I ask, “Are there any other prayers you would like to include?” As hands are raised, I make my way around the sanctuary to pray for other individual concerns. The vast majority of the requests are for those who are sick, having surgery soon, or at the end of life.

That’s OK. Scripture tells us that if someone is sick, pray for them. But aren’t there any other things we can pray about? What about praying for someone’s salvation? Or for a church just getting started? Or for some new ministry opportunity? Or for the community? How about thanks? Or praise?

Just mix it up a little. Otherwise people start to tune out. Let’s push the boundaries a bit, stretch our comfort zone, explore new territory. What do you think?

 

Give him the credit.

ruben-hutabarat-321378You don’t have to be on Facebook very long before you’ll read of someone requesting prayer for themselves or someone they know. It’s often for healing, sometimes for reconciliation, and other times for comfort. Many friends will respond with the assurance of their prayers. Good stuff.

However I’ve noticed that when someone feels better or a situation improves, you’ll read the comment, “Prayer worked.” As a firm believer in prayer, I don’t want to take anything away from it’s power, but in such a situation, isn’t it God who did the work? Shouldn’t he get the credit rather than the prayers or the pray-ers?

What happens when someone doesn’t get better? Prayer didn’t work? Or there wasn’t enough prayer? Or enough pray-ers? Hmm. I don’t like to talk about that stuff.

Abram’s prayer didn’t work. God still destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. David’s prayer didn’t work. His illegitimate son still died. Job’s prayer didn’t work. He never did get an answer from God. Elijah’s prayer didn’t work. God wouldn’t end his life. Jesus’ prayer didn’t work. He still had to drink from that “cup” of suffering.

But God was still at work in and through their lives. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer, God faithfully hangs in there with us. Even if you don’t get what you ask for, God’s at work comforting, strengthening, redirecting and teaching you. The most important part of prayer is connecting with him, not getting what you want. Effective prayer is always about his will being done, not mine.

Just give him the thanks. The honor. And the glory.

 

“You had me at ‘Father.'”

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

As I was reading from the book of Daniel this morning, these words really caught my attention: “The moment you began praying, the command was given” (Daniel 9:23 NLT).

Prior to this, Daniel is praying for forgiveness, acknowledging his own sin, the sins of the nation and the sins of their ancestors. It is Gabriel who assures Daniel that an answer to his prayer was already underway. God didn’t wait until he prayed long enough or said the right things. God’s response was at the front end of his prayers.

Now I don’t want to take this too far, but I do find it fascinating that the most important part of a prayer may very well be the beginning. After all, the salutation doesn’t get as much attention as the body of a letter. The first words of a prayer, though, speak volumes.

It means you’ve been listening, for God always initiates our conversations with him.

It acknowledges who you are and who he is. He’s God. You’re not. He’s the Father. You’re the child. He’s the Almighty. You’re his creation. He loves you. You’re the beloved.

It is bold. Who are we to be speaking to God? Yet we approach his throne of grace with confidence.

It breaks the silence of my heart, my soul, my mind, and my world. I may not know exactly what to say, but now there’s a conversation. I may not even know what the next word will be, but that’s OK. If you’re at a loss for words, the Spirit will take it from there, right?

Jesus urged his disciples not to pray like those who were all about word count. That’s not what counts. What counts is the who. Who you are praying to. The one who hears even before we call out to him, according to Isaiah.

So, this is one of my newest favorite verses. In my mind it’s like God saying, “You had me at ‘Father.”