There are times when prayer is the most beautiful, intimate, sweet time with the Lord. Singing, crying, laughing every emotion is felt and at the end of that time, amazing peace and assurance that my heart was heard and received. Then, there are times when prayer is the most frustrating and perplexing thing imaginable!
I think we all have stories when we wanted something and we prayed and prayed and God came in like a knight in shining armor and rescued us. We send out emails, share with our friends, we blog about those times. They are amazing times that I hope we have all experienced.
And then there is this darker side to prayer that we don't talk about that much, at least not that often. I have shared these times with friends over coffee or dinner, but never testimonies to a crowd. For instance, there are times when I lay myself out there to God and I just know it's got to go the way I am praying...it has to. God is good, and this thing we pray for and want is good and so it should go that way. Surely God wants my child to be healed of this disease, surely God wants me to be married and not stay single my whole life, surely God wants to reconcile our family, surely God wants to bless us with a child, surely God wants this huge bill to be paid by someone else so I don't have to go into debt, surely God wants my family to be saved. Surely! And then it goes silent or the answer God gives is unbelievable perplexing.
This happens. Sometimes when I pray, it feels like no one is listening but me.
This weekend at church, we discussed prayer from the context of Luke 11:1-13. This is the passage where Jesus teaches the disciples to pray. Now, I have heard tons of sermons on this passage and those like it, but the Lord really spoke to me through this one. I was feeling the shortfalls for sure.
The whole message behind the Lord's prayer is that the Lord be magnified. Our prayers are to be theocentric (God centered) instead of, in my case, jenocentric!! I would say, this is a fair phrase worthy to be coined. Considering how well I know my prayer life. "Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come...", Great is your name, let your name and your reknown be glorified and magnified and exaulted and pursued. The cry of our hearts is not for a certain thing, but in that certain thing, God be magnified.
I often forget that God is the center of all things. He is working all things to His glory, unraveling all things to end with His name Glorified. when I pray the "jenocentric" prayers, what I am praying is out of an idolatrous heart. I am praying for things, not for the Lord to be glorfied. Idolotry exists in all of us! When we are pleading for things to be accomplished for us instead of "your will be done" or your name be praised, your name be glorified over my petty desires, it's idolotry.
"Give us each day our daily bread"...this is a prayer to give us everything I need, and ONLY what I need (not want), so that I can see the Lord glorified or hallowed. We do not need anything more lest we wind up with too much and forget God, or we get too little and end up stealing or cheating in order to get what we need. Jesus implores us to pray for just enough to glorify the Lord.
"Forgive us our sins"...to be honest, I struggle with prayer so much because I am constantly fearful that He will just point out more things that suck about me, when I just got over dealing with the last thing that he revealed sucked about me. The Lord is just constantly moving me...He loves me too much to keep me where I am at. So, praise God for that. In this verse, He acknowledges that I don't have to approach Him sinless...He expects us to approach Him in prayer dirty, sinful, lost, sick, and poor in Spirit. He expects it and accepts us that way....Praise GOD!!!
He finishes these verses with some parables that talk about how prayer should look. The first parable emphasises that we need to be persistant in our asking. This is where I fail. This is where my laziness takes over and I leave God to do all the hard work. Ask, then seek, then knock. I've got the asking down and the seeking, but I fail at the knocking persistantly.
So, just to summerize about how I am failing these days (why am I writing this so the world can see?? :) I am constantly praying out of an idolatrous heart, not praying for God's will or for God to be glorified from the things I ask, but praying for my wants. Jenocentric praying if you will. On top of that, I stop at the first "knock". The Lord intends for us to knock and knock and knock some more and then knock even more.
God is a god of His word! Ask, seek, and knock and knock and knock and knock and knock...and it will be given to you. His will, His perfect will, is given. Something far exceeding our expectations or short prayers.
Luke 11:11-13 "If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 "Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"
How much more will our heavenly Father give!!!
God, who is INFINITE in knowledge, will at times, as you plead for something, say "no". It's because He loves us and sees what we cannot see. The real question here is, do we trust Him? Do I trust Him? This is what is uncovered in my prayer life...do I trust that He is the good Father that He has proven to be?
At the end of the day...more than you need your child healed, more than you need your family reconciled, more than you need a husband, more than you need a baby...more than we need those things we pray for we need to know personally, and see the might and power of Christ and His cross.
"The gospel isn't that I would get what I want and He would be enough, but that I would get Jesus and He would be enough and all I want" Matt Chandler.
So, as I sort though these things, I hope that one or a few of you sort through these things as well. I know I am not alone in this struggle. This is big. Sort it out, we can't afford to short God on His glory!