Monday, April 4, 2016

Redefining Prayer

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
Matthew 6:9-13
If there is an area in my Christian life that I wished was better,  it is my prayer life. There was never a time in my life when I thought that I have prayed enough. There are so many believers within my circle whom I admire so much because they devote themselves to prayer in a way that makes me want to copy.   So I pondered about prayer...

Prayer is all about the attitude of the heart.  God is the only audience for our prayers.  Let your prayers be directed to God alone.  Once we consider others around us when we pray, then our focus is divided or even redirected completely to those who are watching or listening.  Jesus recommends praying in private to ensure that only God can hear our prayers.  and he said something to the effect that when our prayers are motivated by an audience apart God alone then we already received our reward (Matthew 6:5-6).

Prayer is a recognition and declaration that God is sovereign and almighty.  When we stop at what we're doing and pray we are positioning ourselves in relation to God. He is God and we are not.  We pray because we admit that we do not understand or control the circumstances that surround our life. Therefore, we pray to the One who knows and the One who holds the control panel.

Prayer is taking on the humble position of humility that says “Everything is in your hands, my Lord God”.  It is not an act of coercing God to agree with us nor influencing his action in our favor.  If we already surrendered our lives to God (to follow Him) then what else is the point of an attempt to micro-manage the Creator of the universe?  The only thing left for us is convince ourselves to align our thoughts with God's. Sometimes God's plan of action is not blissful.  It can mean suffering or pain.  And yes, we tell him how these things don't make sense and it is hurting us. So many psalms were written by King David where he tells God of his sufferings, how he asks God to kill his enemies but in the end he closes his songs with  a refrain - saying that God is his refuge and that He will reward him in the end.

Prayer is a two-way communication with the Lord Almighty.  The things we already know about God are things he revealed to us (Deuteronomy 29:29).  And there are more things he wants to reveal at the right time. The habit of listening allows one to have a better chance to get better at knowing the will and the mind of God. The problem among us, praying people, is we act as if God is mute and we are deaf.   Sometimes we pray with goal of having God agree to the things we’re praying for.  We say so many things, as if he does not know what’s going on.  We take it as our responsibility to inform him how things should work out in our circumstances. But we have it backwards all the time.  Like a butler who is always attentive to everything his master utters, we need to always be on the look out for what our Master reveals to us at every moment.  He knows what's in our minds and he will do what he  plans to do at any given circumstance. Our line when we’re praying should be “Yes , my Lord.” or "As you wish, my Lord." or  "Your will be done, Lord..."  Most of the time we have it backwards, we want God to say to us, "Your will be done."

Prayer is relying on God’s character.  He is loving and merciful and at the same time just and righteous. He cannot separate the two ends of his nature.  We often depend on his mercy but we take it for granted that he is righteous.  In that way our view of God is imbalanced.  God makes his own decisions based on what he sees.  The scary thing is he sees what we do not see and computes what we do not understand.  He sees the motives of heart.  He can decide to be just and merciful anytime he deems necessary for this glory - and yet he also provides the way for his character to remain consistent. He is God and we are not.

I find it interesting that prayer is not about me and my concerns after all.  It is all about our almighty God and my faith in him.  As it is written, "According to your faith it will be done to you." (Matthew 9:29). Paul said to pray without ceasing  (1 Thes. 5:17) - I believe it is indeed important to be reminded consistently of our position with God.  Praying is not telling God to make things happen the way we want, but it is an acknowledgment of God's sovereignty and a recognition of our helplessness and dependence on God's grace.

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