Monday, March 27, 2017

Pondering Prayer

I am so thankful for the many people who are praying for my family and me.  It's a little overwhelming to think that people would lift up little ol' me before our Mighty God and ask Him to use His power to accomplish His will in our lives.  The other day Ethan saw something new in our house and asked where it came from.  I told him that it was from someone who heard about us from a friend who lives far away and that they and their church are praying for us.  Ethan asked me if someone in California is praying for us.  I shared some of the places from which I did know people were praying and I said that it was quite possible.  He was amazed, and I was thankful that he was having an opportunity to experience the bigger church body at work.

But all this has also opened the door for me to do some pondering about prayer.  I mean as I talk with the kids about prayer the first question that comes up is, "Doesn't God already know what we need?  Why do we pray?"  Followed by, "He loves us, so he's going to take care of us, right?  Why do we have to ask Him to take care of us?"  Have you pondered these questions recently?

My pondering and sharing with the kids has filled me with gratitude that God invites us to intimately share and be in relationship with Him.  Yes, He does know what we need.  But it is in the asking that the relationship becomes two sided.  I already know that my kids "need" a snack each afternoon.  But it is in the asking that we share.  I hear their preferences and sometimes they hear my heart that they pick foods that are better for their bodies.  In time this Mama hopes that they will also independently pick healthy snacks throughout their life.  I think this might be a shadow of what God desires in prayer.  I come to Him asking for healing.  He says to me, "Uh huh.  I know you need healing.  But you know it may not just be cancer you need healing from.  Maybe you need healing of idolatry of self and worshipping of independence.  How about we try this and I will take care of you."

Another aspect of prayer I have been pondering is the type of things we pray about when we gather to share requests in a group.  When I look at our Sunday School classes prayer list, I see LOTS of health issues each week.  There will also be job issues, moving/housing issues, and things connected to physical needs.  I'm glad those things are on our list.  We should be praying about them.  But I've been wondering why we so easily request and volunteer to pray about things in those realms, but so infrequently we really apply all the words of James 5:16 and pray about sins we confess.  What would happen if I confessed my sin of not loving my neighbor and asked you to pray that I would have a heart moved for them with God's love?  What if I confessed my self-centeredness in my marriage and asked you to pray that I would put my husband before myself?  What if I confessed that I struggle to pray in the way I think God would have me, and that I would like to learn the self-discipline it takes to make the same requests known every day to God?   If you prayed for these things like you prayed for my health needs, what might the impact be?  How might our relationship change?  How might my life change?

At the same time,  I think our Father delights in our dependency and when we come to Him with these big issues on behalf of another we are crying out that this is too big and we need Him.  I can't help but be reminded of the story in Mark 2:1-12 of the paralytic who was brought to Jesus by his four friends.  Jesus is in a house that is jam packed with people wanting to hear him, as well as those wanting to test him.  Four men have loaded a friend onto a pallet and brought him to the house in the hopes that Jesus will heal their friend's lame legs.  There is no way for them to get near Jesus. In their desperation they have an idea.  They climb up onto the roof, locate where they think Jesus is standing, and start tearing apart the roof.  When the hole is big enough, they lower their friend down so he is in Jesus' presence.  I think prayer might be a little like four friends carrying a pallet for a paralyzed friend.  It brings the needy into God's very presence.  What a privilege!

Jesus sees their faith in action and then gives them what they didn't come for.  He tells the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven.  Isn't that Jesus?  He sees the real problem and give us beyond what we ask for!  Of course this riles up the Pharisees and Jesus uses the opportunity to speak to the objections in their heart.  He reminds them that this man's physical and spiritual states are both hopeless.  He can not walk on his legs.  He can not walk in purity of heart.  But for Jesus, God's Son, the one bearing all authority, nothing is impossible.  And so he heals the man's physical body to give outward testimony of the healing that He can do for the man's inner spirit.  The man, carried by the faith of friends, must now also show faith.  He stretches legs, gets up, takes up the mat, and goes home.  I imagine there are four friends walking down the road with him laughing and retelling the story all the way home.

So my friends, I thank you.  I thank you for praying, for carrying me on a mat to God.  And I thank Him for giving healing- both physical and spiritual.  May we go forth praising Him, continuing to bring our needs- both big and small, physical and spiritual to Him, and may we trust that He will give us what we need most to the glory of His name.

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