“Have you prayed lately”?
This was a question a dear friend asked me quite a long time ago and it has resonated with me ever since. When the question was first posed I had gone to my friend desperate and in need of solid, real answers. I needed solutions not another glib christian response to a problem that was beyond controllable. At first I was angry because I viewed the “have you prayed lately” question as glib and dismissive. It most certainly wasn’t a how-to response or the advice I had sought, but it was the advice I most needed to hear, most needed to remember. You see, prayer is powerful. Prayer can change circumstances but more, prayer WILL change me. Prayer has changed me.
My view of prayer in those days had been so limited, so short-sighted. In truth, many days it still is. Through the years this has been the question I have turned to when everything else has failed. This simple question is the question I ask myself when storms and trials rage like a Kansas tornado and it is also the question I too quickly and easily forget when the sun shines and chases the rain clouds away. Praying is the single-most thing I need to do more than anything but it is nearly always my go-to last resort.
So why don’t we pray more?
Prayer, in the face of the most difficult circumstances feels akin to an irrational grasp for comfort. We pray for answers and meet uncomfortable silence. So we stop praying. Prayer doesn’t have a physical face or a tangible hand to hold on tightly to. So we simply don’t pray. We muddle through life grasping for answers like we grasp for straws. We wrestle, fight, control, claw our way to the next straw until it bends and fails and then we repeat the cycle over and over again. After all, doing something is better than not doing anything at all, right? That’s what our human nature to control everything tries to tell us. Prayer runs counter to the fabric of human nature and reasoning and so we believe the lie that prayer is the white flag of surrender, a giving up on, a doing nothing type of answer.
Jesus had a different response.
“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:20
Jesus not only taught prayer, he DID prayer. He prayed often, for others as well as himself. In Hebrews we are told that “in the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence,” Hebrews 5:7. In Luke Jesus speaks to Simon Peter, a man who would deny Christ three times, that “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have PRAYED for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers,” Luke 22:31-34. These two examples, dear friends, are just the tip of the ice-berg. Jesus’s response was so different than ours typically is and there is so much more evidence showing just how Jesus taught and lived prayer. For a list of at least twenty-nine other references, you can click and go HERE.
Prayer is powerful. Period.
Prayer saves, prayer strengthens, prayer enables faith. Prayer delivers us from prisons in the most unlikely of ways. Don’t believe me? Then go HERE and read about how a church who was praying earnestly prayed an angel to an imprisoned Peter’s side and delivered him from chains and certain death. God walked Peter past the guards, through the city streets, and delivered him right to the praying church’s doorstep. It was such a dramatic answer to prayer that even the people who were gathered and praying questioned Peter’s own physical knock on their door. Prayer does that. God, through prayer, does what we never could do or dream of period.
Are you living in a prison?
Is your marriage estranged, broken, hurting? Do you have a rebellious, stubborn, hard-nosed kiddo that has you at the end of your rope helpless? Are you disheartened and hurting because we live in a hurting and broken world that every day gets a little more evil, a little more unfathomable, a little more at war? Is your prison one of your own doing, one of your own making? Is your prison sin? Are you tired of grasping for a new straw and watching it fall short, fail? The denial won’t help. The words ladies, the words we fling at our husbands in fear and frustration won’t help save a hurting marriage. The alcohol may numb but it won’t deliver. The drugs will only destroy your mind and your health. Self-help books may encourage for a time, but they won’t change the course of our decisions or of those we love. So, have you prayed lately? If no, then stop right now and go, just go. Get on your knees before a powerful God and humble yourself and in repentance and reverence pound and knock on the door of the only one who can truly deliver and save. Do battle on your knees. Let the tears fall and soak the pages and battle, wrestle in prayer. Prayer is anything but giving up. Prayer is surrendering what we can’t control to a God who is in control, always. Always.
As a side-note, if you are praying and struggling through the silence and wondering how to push through, here is a link to one of my most favorite tools and resources. This little book has helped me through some pretty dry valleys and helped me pray through scripture when honestly, I just didn’t feel like praying. Don’t give up on praying, keep pushing through. I promise you won’t regret doing so!