Prayer... As i said before, it's one of those things that has a lot of different ideas swirling around it. For the last 6 or 7 years, my view of prayer has been changing significantly. Six years ago i decided (stupidly) that prayer was pointless because i couldn't see any proof that it was working. (All i prayed for was a good day and for my left hand to get better.) Then, almost exactly 2 years ago this view of prayer led me to say that there was no possible way God could be real. (Nothing is further from the truth.) But now i've found myself longing to pray, but every time i do i find myself falling into this really bad habit of what i have come to call 'Bargaining with God'.
It’s not that it’s an evil thing to do, because it’s in the Bible and it works for the people that do it. However, I find myself constantly praying something like, “God, if I’m supposed to do a, let x happen, but if I’m not supposed to do a, let y happen.”
You might think, “oh, that’s like what Gideon did,” and yes, I’d have to agree with you. Judges 6:36-40 tells the story:
Then Gideon said to God, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.” And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water. Then Gideon said to God, “Do not let Your anger burn against me that I may speak once more; please let me make a test once more with the fleece, let it now be dry only on the fleece, and let there be dew on all the ground.” God did so that night; for it was dry only on the fleece, and dew was on all the ground.Which is exactly what I’ve found myself doing. “God, if you want me to do this, let this happen, and if you don’t, let this other thing happen.” I don’t know if it shows a lack of faith, demanding a sign, but it’s confusing. Another key example in the Bible is Genesis 24:12-14:
He said, “O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today, and show lovingkindness to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water; now may it be that the girl to whom I say, ‘Please let down your jar so that I may drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels also’—may she be the one whom You have appointed for Your servant Isaac; and by this I will know that You have shown lovingkindness to my master.”The story then goes on to explain that a girl came out, named Rebecca, and did everything the guy prayed for. She later became the mother of Jacob and Esau.
So my thing these days is to stop doing this with my prayers. What I need to do is just pray. No giving God requirements. His plans are higher than mine. His plans are holier than mine. His plans are better than mine. I mean, honestly, if I had had my way, I’d probably be playing baseball somewhere right now saying, “God look at all the money I’ve got. I don’t need You.” And then end up in hell when I die. I thank Him every time I think about it that He gave me a stroke so I would hit rock bottom and realize, “dang, I’m gonna be in big trouble if I die without You.”
So, after hearing my pastor preach, verse by verse, on what’s commonly known as “the Lord’s prayer,” which he dubbed “the disciples’ prayer,” due to the fact that it was our Lord teaching His followers how to pray, I decided to make a list of things to pray for every day. It went well for a few days, but soon I had stopped again. Things crowded it out and I would put it off and never get back to it. Never a good idea.
When I took a road trip back east at Christmas time, I decided to take the six sermons along so I could rejuvenate my prayer life. It worked. For like a week— if that.
So, after this past week I’ve decided to try again— differently. You see, I’ve started running again (after almost two years off) and I’ve realized that’s a great time, especially early in the morning, to just pray. There’s really no distractions while I’m out on the sidewalk. Just me and God for the most part. Especially at 6 a.m.
But, I’ve caught myself, especially this week, pulling the Abraham’s servant prayers again. I mean when he did it, there was no problem with what he was doing. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with mine either, but I think I should just settle with praying, “God, give me guidance and direction in x, y, and z in my life.”
Tonight, walking home from church, I decided to take an out of my way route and spend a good fifteen minutes just praying, out loud, to God. At least five times I caught myself doing the Abraham’s servant prayer, and then I’d say, “nevermind. Just give me guidance and direction please.”
It’s complicated but it’s true. I know there’s no real answer to anything here, but I figured I’d give you my thoughts. God wants you to pray for everything, even the little things. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “…Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” Don’t just pray for big things. Pray for little things too. He wants to hear you speak to Him.
And just as a closing thought, I thought about this earlier today. When I used to hang out with my best friend everyday, we’d always talk about girls we like. And, for some probably similar reason, it seems like that’s my favorite subject to talk to God about. A guy can never have too much Godly guidance on that topic.