Wednesday, April 28, 2004
I've been working on this off & on since yesterday, getting it ready to post. Some folks have these long theologically heavy posts, and I usually just jot something down and fire it off. But this time, I wanted to make the effort to get something worth reading down here. There was a comment to this post from Dina (I've cut/paste as is):
- Hi i surfed in onto your blog when i was doing some personal research on spritual issues, particularly relating to this topic. i am hoping that maybe you or someone out there could ansswer it for me.
Everywhere i notice that people pray to God for specific things, like "let me get an A on my test," "keep my family safe in their travels," "please let me have a healthy baby" or the one you listed above, "please ask him to help this woman." basically, asking god for something in particular.
i guess my question is, is there a point in praying or askign god for specific things? i mean, supposedly god's will is going to be done regardless of what we personally want. we can pray for a healthy baby all we want but if it was meant be born brain damaged, all that praying will have been in vain. we can pray all we want that our family members are going to return from their trip to france in one piece, and if the plane crashes inot the ocean does it mean that god wasn't listening? i think it means that it was pointless for you to pray for that particular thing.
also, i remember back when elizabeth smart, the little kidnapped girl was found, and her father said that it was because so many people had prayed so hard for her to be returned safely. and everyone semeed to nod their heads and agree. but kids disappear all the time and people pray night and day that they will come home, and they still turn up dead. and it seems like kindof an insult to those people whose kids didnt come home, like they hadn't prayed hard enough or god didn't favor them as much as he did elizabeth smart's family. like, the laci peterson family prayed nonstop and so did many people around the world for her, and she and her baby were still found dead.
so is there a point to praying for something specific besides "god's will be done?" if not, why do people do it? i hear pastors and preachers praying for specific things all the time, and i wonder.
boy that was long. sorry everyone. any responses on this topic would be really interesting to me personally. thanks.
take it easy,
Start with "what is prayer?" - it's the conversation between us as humans and God as God, Father, Creator, Savior. When Jesus was asked about prayer, He brought things like humility, asking for provision, gratitude for forgiveness and guidance, etc. Paul instructed the Thessalonian church to "pray without ceasing"; and he told the Philippian church that he was always rejoicing in prayer over them. We can follow these principles through the Psalms, stories in the OT and NT, and into the lives of the Apostles and early Church fathers. We are a people of prayer.
Some of our prayer is asking for things - but that's not a total definition of prayer. Many times, I don't ask for anything. I praise Him, I thank Him, I ask for forgiveness and grace to repentance, and then I move on. Sometimes I listen - sometimes, for a long time, I just try to get quiet before Him, hoping He'll speak. Sometimes He's far away, but most of the time, I sense God, bigger than myself and still pursuing relationship with me.
But what about asking for specific things: like healing, or deliverance, or salvation, or a good parking space. When we ask God, according to Jesus' name - which means that this is what Jesus is actually asking through us at the time - when we do this, we are joining in the work of the Father. We are speaking, and He is listening. As we grow in Him, we ask better questions. As we learn more about His heart, as we grow in Christ-likeness, we ask for the "right thing" more often than not. And when our prayers are answered - however they are ultimately answered - we have the joy of knowing we have joined with the Creator in things of utmost importance in the universe.
When we don't get the answer we expected, or we don't receive what we asked for in a way that we were looking for, we learn more about how God works, and we might be learning how our own faith needs to rely on Him more than the way we pray or how hard we might pray. We are to intercede, knowing that ultimately it is all in the Father's hands.
This is a particularly touchy subject when talking about healing: what if I pray, and the person is not healed? Did I have enough faith? Why didn't God do as I asked? The best story I've heard on this subject is from Doug Bannister in his book, The Word & Power Church. His daughter was in the hospital close to death, and the whole church was in the hallways praying for her healing and safety. Another young girl was on the same children's floor, also close to death; her family and church filled the hallways, praying for healing and safety. The author's little girl lived, and the other little girl passed away. How can you look at one family over the other and say God's grace was bigger there? When the other little girl died, that family and that church needed more of God's comfort and presence. His little girl lived, but he never forgot that God was in the prayers across the hall, too.
He is sovereign, and still wants to have us join Him in this adventure. Prayer is the journey, the map and the conversation along the way. I guess I want to grab onto some of the drama, some of the grandeur that real prayer is supposed to contain.