Read post on Jesus Creed about prayer that made me mad. If you believed it, you would basically have no reason to pray. Basically, it said prayer never changes anything except the person praying. Never? Much too strong a word. I’m afraid it is the arguments raising their heads again that since I did not receive the answer I wanted in X, I should lower my expectations for all future requests. Uh-huh, and who would want us lowering our sights and praying less? Think about it. This is war after all, and the propaganda is flying. Put on the armor provided to you by God and let’s look at how to pray in faith.
Look at Philippians 4:4-7. I have it on a 3 x 5 card to read as a prayer frequently. There are other verses that come to mind as well, especially a story about being persistent in prayer, but I want to look at what is here. It starts with rejoice in the Lord, take joy in Him, be happy in Him. However you want to describe rejoicing, it involves happiness and focusing on the Lord. I confess, as one who has a tendency toward depression, sometimes this is a stretch for me. And yet, sometimes it is as simple as singing a praise song to lift my doldrums. Other times I need to start enumerating all God has done for me, or perhaps naming all the attributes of His nature I can think of. In any case, that action alone tends to build my faith.
Then it talks about showing gentleness toward all and reminds us that the Lord is near. What a relief! I need Him to be near me, especially when praying. In fact, that’s the only thing that helps me with the next part, do not be anxious. I’m all too good at being anxious. Sometimes I’m anxious about things that will never even happen, except in my mind. But hey, the Lord is near, so I can do the next part and bring all my concerns before Him. It says to present my requests to Him. What was that? All of them? This could take a while, in fact I may need to be praying all day long. Hmm, maybe that’s exactly what He has in mind, prayer as natural as breathing, or conversation.
Almost forgot one part, with thanksgiving. So we bring it all to Jesus and give it to Him and say thank you. We say thank you even before we know how He will deal with all of our stuff. In fact, I find I have to deliberately have a time to say thank you prayers each day. It may be thank you that you are going to handle this. It may be as simple as thank you for listening to me. Or it could be thanks for the friends who make life worthwhile, or the family you have given me. If you struggle with this, make a practice of writing down 5 things each day, no matter how small. Maybe you got the last parking place at the mini mall, or there was a beautiful sunset tonight. Maybe you are like me and your growing kids are driving you crazy, but you know that their very existence was an answer to prayer, so you say thanks anyway. I’ve read that those who do focus on what they have to be thankful for are more content with life overall, therefore less stressed. I’m all for that!
Maybe that’s why it says, when we have dumped all our troubles on God and said thank you to Him, we will have peace. And it is a peace that will guard our hearts and minds. Wow! I think I need to pray this way more often. I wonder if we experience that peace too seldom, because much of the time we are too busy problem solving to take it all to Jesus? Maybe we need to write down things we pray for so when the answers come, we have them to add to our thankful list.
Perhaps, just maybe, is it possible that one reason we see too few answers is because our requests, far from being too big, are actually too small? Maybe we are asking God to get our kid through this one hard class, when we should be talking to Him about making him/her into the best they can be, into who He wants them to be. Maybe we don’t see healing because our prayers are on the lines of bless and bring healing to X, if it is your will. I don’t recall Jesus praying like that, in fact, he often commanded healing. What if He is waiting for us to get that? He always rewarded faith.
I have a friend who has a rare form of cancer that is usually fatal. She celebrated her 5th year of life after her diagnosis, because we prayed her back from the brink of death on more than one occasion. Every time, she comes back with a new story of how God came through for her. If we weren’t storming the gates of heaven for her, would she still be here? I doubt it. She is not cancer free, but I’m hoping that when she does go, it will not be because of the cancer.
My point is, don’t shrink your prayers down because your faith is small. Maybe the best prayer for you is Lord, help my unbelief. May He grow your faith and your prayers.