The Lord’s Prayer
What do you expect to happen when you pray? It is possible that we have become so jaded by our experience in prayer that we expect nothing. We pray because we are supposed to …not because we expect anything to happen. “We are working with God to determine the future! Certain things will happen in history if we pray rightly. We are to change the world by prayer” (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline). I must admit that this statement challenges my thinking. I do believe that prayer works and that every prayer is answered. But are we changing the world? And how do we pray rightly?
I’m not challenging Foster’s assertion so much as I am challenging my concepts of prayer. Am I being too presumtuous to say that the biggest prayer-problem we all have are those prayers that seem to go unanswered. The prayers that we would say with full confidence must be expressing God’s will … prayers asking God to save the life of a young mother or to rescue a child who is in danger. At the passing of the young mother or the exploitation of the child we are bewildered that God did not rescue those who needed Him. This happens every day. The cynic will focus on a God who’s habit it is to ignore the pleas of his children. I can think of a few philosophic answers to this ‘dilemma’, but they do not speak to my heart.
Foster says, “I determined to learn to pray so that my experience conformed to the words of Jesus rather than try to make his words conform to my impoverished experience.” Prayer is not about receiving everything we want, is it? Isn’t it more about living within His will and kingdom? I admit that this is one of the mysterious aspects of prayer. Like any child talking to his or her father, we should speak freely and ask with abandon for those blessings we desire. At the same time we should not expect a blank check in order to receive everything.
In some paradoxical way the Christian is to express his heart’s desire to the Father and at the same time temper his requests into alignment with the known will of God. We may make this more difficult than it is as we consider it. Oswald Chambers proposed that, “Prayer is hard work.” It is something in which we grow. No one ever prayed perfectly. So I do not present this paradox to shake us up and make us afraid to pray. Pray heartily, friends. But remember as we deal with expectations in prayer that it is perhaps on our end of the stick that mistakes or misjudgments are being made….not on God’s.
I would very much love to hear your thoughts and experiences on these matters. John Alan Turner’s post on ‘What Do You Do When God Eats Your Quarter’ addresses this subject as well.
***Thoughts & Links***
Wednesday night was quite a night at Central. We watched The Visual Bible’s presentation of Matthew 26-28 … powerful portrayal of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We usually have lots of discussion following the videos, but tonight everyone was just speechless. And rightly so. I talked to one of the Mennonite men after that and he said, “we share the same faith” … in Jesus Christ. Amen. In just a short time we had the privilege of hearing a group of about 35 Mennonite teenagers sing gospel songs to us. Beautiful young voices filled our hearts as we listened. They even covered the Church of Christ National Anthem … Our God He Is Alive. I wonder if it is 728b in their books? They requested no photographs or recordings, so I cannot give you any images. It was lovely.
Thanks for reading!