October 1, 2008

Pondering Prayer

I’ve talked enough. Today I want to hear from you. (I may make this a regular feature. We’ll see how it goes.)

Let’s talk about prayer.

Of all the tools in my Christian toolbox, I think prayer is one the hardest to understand…and to do well. It’s not that I don’t pray, I do. I just don’t think I’m very good at it. Despite my best intentions to stay focused, my mind wanders. I start out strong, but soon I’m thinking about the laundry, what’s planned for the day, a conversation I had and so on. Plus, there are so many people and circumstances to pray for, I never know when I’m done. Often I pray in bed at night. Inevitably I fall asleep. Is God OK with this?

I struggle with the concept that if God has preordained everything isn’t the thing I’m praying for going to happen whether I pray or not? Is God really listening? Sometimes God answers prayers. Sometimes He doesn’t. Why?

I've observed a lot of people using prayer as a magic wand like they’re trying to bend the will of God to their liking. Or they use prayer like a rabbit’s foot, rubbing it for good luck and a means of protection.

That said, in the years I’ve been a Christian I’ve grown a lot in regard to prayer. Among other things I’ve learned four important lessons:

1. God DOES answer prayer.

2. The more specific and personal my requests, the more specific and personal God’s answers.

3. Praying aloud with fellow believers in an intimate setting has allowed me to experience the presence of God and the Holy Spirit in incredibly powerful ways.

4. There are no perfect pray-ers. We may rank the “effectiveness” or “eloquence” of our prayers compared to others, but God doesn’t. I think nothing is more precious to our heavenly Father than a heart laid bare before Him, no matter what the words that cover it.

Now it's your turn. What's your experience with prayer? Why and how do you pray? Have you had specific answers to prayer? Do you struggle with hearing God or wonder if He’s even listening?


Peggy said...

I know that you know how God has humbled me and used my prayers to make this part of my life so rich and rewarding.
Those of you who know who I am , know just exactly what I'm talking about.
God doesn't listen to how we say our prayers, or even when or where we say them.
Prayer is just our conversation with Our Heavenly Father, just as we write a blog or comment to it, just as we talk on the phone or have coffee with a friend.
Prayer can be said with lots of words or just a few.
To me, prayer is the joy and fellowship with God daily, and we must always allow Him time to talk to us as well. I have even told God some jokes at times and I thinks He appreciates our honesty, sincerity and humor.
Now I must get ready for that terrific job God gave me this year.
Have a great a day, and I'm anxious to see what others say as well.
Blessings and Love....Peggy

Kelly said...

Hi Kelli...

I have learned that God DOES answer prayer, but just like a parent, sometimes He answers NO. I have learned the most precious prayers are the ones where my heart is bleeding and poured out to Him, and I have learned in prayer that sometimes...I talk way to much...and don't listen enough. I have also learned that some prayers are stored up teasures still waiting to be discovered...In HIS TIME.

Blessings Abundantly,


Susie Merchant said...

Good topic for discussion.
I also believe in the power of prayer and that God answers prayers. As you know, there have been times when I've sent out prayer requests. In most cases, God has blesses me beyond what I've asked. Sometimes I don't like his answer, but I trust that He knows a better answer and will let me know in his time. I continue to pray for the things where he hasn't answered my prayer, but change it to ask for guidance or to understand his will.

Debbie said...

I believe God has only two answers: Yes and Better! He sees the big picture, not us. “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly”.

I also believe prayer is fellowship and communion God wants to have with us. Yes, He knows what is going to happen, but He wants to hear our hearts desire.

When my mind wonders, I have a pad of paper next to me to write things down so I can keep as focused as possible on God.

Love, Deb

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Prayer is everything to me. And while it doesn't fit any particular formula, it works for me. Prayer is simply talking to God. I often pray in quiet, in the confines of my own bedroom, on my face and with my Bible open.

God's peace is my promise when I pray about everything, with thanksgiving in my heart. I'm a peace girl; probably because so much of it has been lacking in my life throughout the years. Jesus is our peace. Knowing him is the ticket to a full measure of peace in our lives. That's why I pray.

He's my lifeline. He's worthy of my thoughts. When I stray (as I am so prone to do), I simply recall my thoughts back to him by reading the Word in front of me.

Anyway, just a few thoughts.


Cheryl Barker said...

Prayer -- praising, thanking, and talking with my Heavenly Father -- is a life-giving and sustaining part of my life. It is our life-line, along with the Word, to our only sure Rock and foundation. Prayer can become as natural a part of our lives as taking our next breath as we realize God is our ever-present companion. I could go on and on, but I won't :)

One more thought, though, about falling asleep while praying. Not long ago I read (and can't remember where right now) something on this topic. It said, "What better place to fall asleep than in your Father's arms?" Perfect, huh?

Susan S said...

Hi Kelli
This is my first blog comment, so I pray that you will receive it. I started praying with my kids about a year ago and I find it easier to pray aloud with kids than with grown-ups. Maybe because the prayer is simpler or I'm not as self-conscious. My kids, even my 4-yr old, say prayers and I love to listen to them. Their words are precious. Even when they confuse Jesus with Santa Claus or our pastor. (Which our pastor said not to worry about, they will work it out as they get older).
Love, Susan

Kathryn said...

Kelli, your post expressed many things with which I wrestled over the years.

I have learned that prayer does not change God, but prayer changes me. It helps me develop an intimacy with the One Who knows me personally and created me uniquely. It draws me closer to Him, and it taps in to the power of His Holy Spirit.

When I pray, I seek His face, not His hands. I seek His will, not my way. My prayers are not very eloquent, but I do pray that they are pleasing to Him!

Chatty Kelly said...

I definitely believe in the power of prayer - but find I don't use it effectively. I'm learning.

The acronym ACTS, stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplecation - seems I'm really good at the supplecation part, and even okay at the Thanksgiving part. I need to work on the adoration and confession.

Thanks for the thoughts. Working through them myself in my current bible study. Coincidence...or God incidence!

Scott B said...

I don't find prayer difficult to understand. To me, it is a means in which I can talk to God in much the same way that I have come to believe that reding the bible is how God talks to me. That's the easy part. Actually doing it is the tough part.

If I'm too tired, I either find myself falling asleep or find that I am completely losing track of where I've been and where I'm going with it. I was saying a prayer the other day and suddenly found myself wondering why Jimmy Rollins wasn't hitting. How did that get in there?!

There are three different routes that I have found to a successful prayer:
1. Group prayer - After I got over the uncomfortable feeling of praying out loud, in front of people, I found that group prayer became the easiest and best way for me to do prayer. Maybe it's the strength I get from the others around me or maybe it's just the simple fact that saying something out loud allows me to focus. I'm not sure.
2. Planning my prayer - If I spend time up front thinking over in my mind what I want to pray about, I often avoid the distractions and tangents that interrupt my prayer. Sometimes I ad-lib a little if something pops into my mind, but if I stay focused I know when I've completed what I want in my prayer time.
3. Complete sponaneity on a specific subject - Every once in a while something is brought to my attention that I feel the need to pray for. It could be something happy or sad, but it's usually a one subject prayer.

These are what works for me, but I believe that God is happy with any prayer that is sincere. I believe that even selfish prayer could be acceptable (albeit maybe in small doses). If it's from your heart to His ears, he might not answer it, but he wants to hear from us.

hanks for making me think, again.