I’ve been struggling lately. Looking back, I’ve always been struggling with something. It’s a familiar struggle. It’s prayer.
We go way back. I’ve been wrestling with the concept of prayer since Noah got off the ark, and I am still no closer to understanding it.
When you think about it, the idea of prayer is ridiculous. We have a God who is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. He knows everything, is everywhere at all times and has the power to do anything He wants to do.
He desires the very best for us seeing how He’s already given His best – His son – to free us from Satan, sin and self. If He has given us the best, do you think He’s going to keep the rest?
I don’t think so. Then why in the world would God want us to pray? Am I so bold or so ignorant to think I know better than God? Why would He suspend His divine plan for the universe to answer my petty requests? Can I change God’s mind? Doesn’t it seem selfish for me to even try?
The philosopher Rousseau had a similar explanation for his struggle with prayer: “Why should I ask of Him that He would change for me the course of things?”
Evidently we are expected to pray even though Jesus tells us, “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!” (Matthew 6:8-9 NLT) He even goes on to give a model for us to follow.
I like the way Eugene Peterson explains it: “With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this: Our Father in Heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right; do what’s best – as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes.” (Matthew 6:9-13 MSG)
The Bible emphasizes God is in charge and still instructs us to pray. I used to pray as if I were in charge. Oftentimes I viewed prayer as a feeble attempt to manipulate God into doing what I believed to be in His best interest, not to mention mine.
Looking back on some of my “counsel” with God, I’m so thankful He didn’t take my advice. I would have been in a mess sure enough had He listened to me. He did, indeed, know what I needed before I ever asked. He was in charge, praise the Lord, not me.
My prayer life has changed drastically over the years. It used to be a monologue where I did all the talking. Then I learned a technique called “listening” prayer where I would sit and listen for God to talk to me. I’ll admit God gave us two ears and one mouth, which ought to tell us something. I do need to listen more than I talk.
However, I’m discovering what God really wants in the way of prayer is a dialogue, like two dear friends who love each other very deeply. I’m learning my friend is someone to whom I can pour out the entire contents of my heart knowing the kindest of hands will take it, keep what is worth keeping and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away. He is some kind of wonderful.
Aren’t you glad He is your friend? Don’t you wish all your friends were like that?
Francois Fenelon must have understood. Listen to his treatise on how to pray:
“Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability.
“Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and to others. If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed.
“People who have no secrets from each other never want for subjects of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back; neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say just what they think.
“Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God.”
Your Friend is waiting. Let us pray!
Kenny Ashley is the leader of The Journey in Lake Wylie. It meets at 10:30 a.m. Sundays at Crowders Creek Elementary School.