Lately the power of prayer has been a constant reminder. I have been reminded that God sees me....He hears me...He bends down to listen...He cares. I've been brought up short as I'm reminded that my prayers are not a to-do list for God, but rather a heart surrendering to His will as I humbly reveal the deepest parts of me to the Only One Who can really do anything about it. When I've prayed and not seen immediate results I've been reminded that patience is a virtue - a character trait not ingrained, but learned. Finally, when I have seen the joy of prayers affirmed and answered only to be sent back to square two a couple days later I've been reminded that life is a journey and just because I pray and He answers doesn't mean it's all going to be A-Okay from then on.
What it does mean is that He still sees me. He stills hears me. He still bends down to listen, and, no matter what, He still cares.
About every little detail.
This excerpt from a devotional on prayer by Jack Graham speaks directly to what I have been experiencing and thinking recently.
"When you and I arrive at heaven's gate someday, no doubt we will be shocked by our lack of faithfulness as it relates to prayer. We will see firsthand the vast storehouse of blessing God had reserved for us, if only we had asked for His intervention in our lives. "You do not have because you do not ask." James 4:2 reads. What a fitting reminder to pray while we still have life left to live! Indeed, nothing good, nothing great, nothing lasting, nothing holy can ever happen apart from prayer.
That is why prayer should never be a sideline habit for believers. Prayer should not just be a ritual performed at the beginning of a family meal. We are to pray, persistently and passionately in dependence and in obedience. And let me be clear, if you are not praying, there is no way you can ever grow as a Christian. Without prayer, there is no way you will ever truly know God intimately. Prayer flows out of a life connected to Christ. And prayer also connects our life to Christ."
taken from "Lord, Hear Our Cry: A 30-Day Prayer Challenge" by Dr. Jack Graham
(you can also do this plan on the youversion.com Bible )
Those last couple of sentences in the second paragraph were like arrows between the eyes for me. "without prayer, there is no way you will ever truly know God intimately. Prayer flows out of a life connected to Christ. And prayer also connects our life to Christ." To know God intimately requires getting together with Him and connecting not just at the head level, but on a heart level.
For example...I listen to a few different Bible teachers as I prepare for my day. I may listen to Dr. Charles Swindoll one day, and Andy Stanley the next...or I might listen to a podcast from my own church or our previous church's teaching. Although the last two pastors I do know personally, I cannot say I know them intimately. Because I have listened to Dr. Swindoll for so many years and read so many of his books I can say I sometimes feel as if I know him. My own pastors I can even say I know pretty well.....but intimately? Uh. No.
However, I can say I know my husband and children intimately. I can also say I have intimate friends. The difference between them and the people I mentioned in the previous paragraph? Easy answer....time spent together getting real with each other.
It is not a one way relationship. I do not read God's word and think I know Him intimately. I do not only pray and think I know Him intimately. One without the other leaves one of us out in the cold.
Reading God's Word gives us an intimate knowledge of Who He is - we get to know Who He is throughout His interactions with others. We don't, however, fully grasp the magnitude of who He is if we only know Him intellectually.
There is a current movement to seek the Holy Spirit and to consistently let Him guide through prayer and fervent times of seeking His voice. Not a bad thing....unless the voices in our heads that we think are the Holy Spirit are actually not of God at all. The voice we hear goes against what the Word of God says, but because we aren't reading the Bible we aren't aware of it....and we are led astray under the guise of "following the Spirit's leading."
Praying alone gives us, at times, an emotional heart-level understanding of Who He is, but not knowing the truth of Who He is as we read in His Word leaves us wanting intellectually.
Then there's our side. If we spend time reading His Word - studying, digging in, getting to know Him - we know His character. If we spend time praying for others in accordance with His Word we trust what we know of Him. Sounds pretty well-rounded, huh? Pretty full? We know, love and trust Him, so we're good?
WE know HIM...and HE knows US....but do we *intimately* trust Him with our most intimate selves? Our deepest hurts? Our most fervent desires? Our greatest doubts? Our rage and frustration over the injustices in our lives and the world around us?
If we aren't willing to spend time getting real with God our Christian life, as Dr. Graham stated, is stunted. We don't grow in Him. We don't thrive. We don't grasp the power available to us through Him.
Today I am in that place of frustration over the answers to my prayers being ping-ponged back and forth between "Passing Go" and "Going directly to Jail" (we'll use Monopoly as a tangible example of what the prayers - answered - seeing - positive - results - while - in - the - next - moment - human - nature - takes - over - and - pulls - it - back - again feels like). I hate it. I want to do some major brain surgery on a certain young person in my life who keeps being offered grace, celebrates and jumps in, freaks out and jumps back out again where he can be comfortable.
I am reminded life is a journey. Reminded that, just because one day seems like my prayers are answered and life is going to be beautiful all the time from here on out, I still live in a broken world where the only hope I have is knowing the One Who created all things and in Whom all things hold together.
So today I pray again....for the very same thing I've been praying for over the last few months. I cling again...to the hope found only in Jesus Christ. I trust again...in the fact that God the Father knows exactly what His plan is and I don't. I remind myself (again)....patience is a character trait that is learned, not given. Then I scream and kick my feet because I want patience in the situation......NOW! ......and I start all over again knowing that everyday really does bring a brighter hope, a bit more trust, a lot more patience.
Because after all.....