Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Mystery of Prayer

I don't really understand prayer. Maybe one day I will. However, I know that God wants us to pray, and to persist in our petitions. Some have said that God answers in one of three ways: Yes, no, and not now. Someone once shared that there's a fourth way which God often answers our prayers: "Wrong subject prayed for." That is, we concentrate on asking for a particular thing, and God says, I'm going to give you something completely different, and better. Something that's not even in your radar.

This morning I read from Jeremiah 29 where God says that his plans for our future is to bless us. Actually, Jeremiah is talking to Israel who is living in captivity around 600 B.C. Many may have thought that there was no longer any hope of returning to Jerusalem from Babylon. But, although Judah had committed sins worthy of her exile, God says that he would be merciful. He says that he hasn't forgotten her. In the midst of her sin, Judah is promised God's grace. God tells her, "You will seek Me, and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13). And then God says, ". . . 'and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations from where I have driven you. . . and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile" (29:14; See Jer. 30:3).

Part of why God has established prayer as the means of granting us things is because he wants us to seek him with all our heart. Isn't it easy to fall into a state of complacency when things are going well? Why is it that the fire has to be turned up in our lives in order for us to seek the Lord with zeal? Could there have been another way to get our attention? Apparently not. Our Creator wants us to depend on him and to long for him, and to wait upon him. He desires our heart, our attention, our passion.

Maybe you're not getting what you're asking for. Keep asking. But, remember that God can exchange the subject and surprise you with something you never imagined. It's about his glory, and his Kingdom, but also about conforming you to the image of his Son.

I don't understand prayer, but I know God delights when his children talk to him. I hope that you have taken time this day to stop and talk to him and give him your heart.
Por Su Gracia y Poder


frozenclocks said...

Great topic, and an important one at that.

I have a question, though, if you don't mind: Is there a difference between prayer and petition? It seems to me that throughout the Bible (Jeremiah, Daniel, Acts, Philippians, Hebrews, etc.) one finds a differentiation between praying and petitioning, that is, you find references such as "prayer(s) AND petition(s)," as if there is something in the original language that expresses their difference. Is there an important yet subtle distinction there that we should not take for granted, or is the conjunct "AND" not really indicative of their difference?

My hunch is that there is a distinction to be drawn between prayer and petition. It seems to me that prayers are wholly about God and not at all about us or this or that thing/circumstance. Prayers are entirely directed at and focused on God alone, thus it consists in meditatively thanking Him, loving Him, praising Him, enjoying Him, glorifying Him, etc.

On the other hand, petitions are about this or that finite thing/circumstance and its relation to God, thus it consists in asking God for the right significant other or career, for clarity of thought when it comes to exams, for the right words when speaking to others about Christ, for making the correct business investment decision, etc., etc.

Since prayer gets us to tune in to what's most important, namely God, it reorients our priorities by shaping the way in which we actually make petitions before God. Thus a consequence of prayer is that it prepares our hearts for being able to make the right petitions to God.

It seems to me that many of us tend to make the mistake of simply offering petitions to God without first humbly coming before Him and coming to a deeper understanding of His holiness and power--an acknowledgment that might radically transform our perspective towards those very things which we were going petition about. Does that make any sense?

What do you think?

Roger P. Felipe said...

Excellent questions. I'll be writing a blog this week to respond to your questions.