If you are bothered by honest confessions of someone that struggles then perhaps this would be a good time to quit reading. I have been a Christian for almost 40 years and a pastor for over 30, yet I struggle.
Sometimes I just do not get this whole prayer thing. Shocking isn’t it. There are times when I beg God to do something, change someone’s heart, heal, bring to salvation or repentance, you name it, and absolutely nothing happens. My prayers seem to vaporize as soon as they leave my mouth. Is God really listening and does He even care? “You say this and you are a pastor? I am appalled with your lack of faith and depth of understanding,” some might think.
My faith however is not the issue, neither is my head knowledge or understanding. I trust God, I just struggle with how and why to pray sometimes. If He is indeed the Sovereign Lord of the Universe and is working out all things after His perfect will, then where does prayer fit in? If everything is already known and no one can thwart His will, why bother to ask Him to do something? Maybe you have had the same thoughts. Maybe not, but I bet you know someone who has.
For the record I am not into Open Theism, formula praying, positive confession or anything like that, I just am trying to be honest here. I have prayed for some things for over 40 years and they have not happened. I have prayed for the sick and they died. For marriages to stay together that did not. For people to repent who have not and for relationships to be restored that were not. So, my question still remains – why bother praying?
I was raised in a church that bound the devil and loosed the Holy Spirit. How many times does the old devil need to be bound before he is? Is the Holy Spirit really bound up so He needs to be loosed by me? That devil sure must be slippery to get out of all that binding and the Holy Spirit must be covered in glue to need to be freed up all the time. I am not intending to be offensive to those who practice such things; I just cannot help but wonder why these practices never work long term and how accurate these methods really are biblically speaking. Ok, I really do not wonder at all, but I am trying to be nice.
So, back to my dilemma. If God is going to do what God is going to do, why do I pray? Why do I bring my requests before Someone that may or may not do what I want? Is this just some guessing game and if I say the right words in the proper order than God will grant my request but if I do not then He doesn’t have to? Maybe I am not sincere enough? Maybe if I really believed and my faith was stronger, God would answer more often according to my wishes and desires. The Scripture does state that the prayers of a righteous man accomplishes much (James 5:16) so maybe I am not righteous enough? Wait, my righteousness is completely based on what Jesus did on the cross, so that isn’t it. Jesus said if I had faith as small as a mustard seed great things could happen, and my faith is at least that big.
Jesus told His disciples how to pray in the Lords’ prayer and He often spent entire nights in prayer. What did Jesus pray during those times? Wouldn’t that be great to have a copy of that discourse! We don’t of course so we are back to wondering. I do remember something about settling on God’s will instead of His own desires in a garden…
Lest you think I am totally lost, I do pray. I bring my requests before my Lord and Savior who sits on the throne of grace and mercy. I cry, sigh, moan and groan. I sing, bow and am silent before Him. I sit, listen, and try to quiet my soul before Him and I wait.
As I do such things, I change. My anxious heart slows down some and my mind quits racing. My view of life takes a turn towards the heavenly perspective and peace ensues. I enter into a time of worship and though my requests may not be answered, my relationship deepens with my Lord. Peace settles in and a quiet confidence that all will be well someday covers me. Maybe God will not do what I want, but do I really want that anyway? Maybe the point of prayer is not to tell God what to do but to quiet down and learn to listen to Him and seek what He wants. Now that is a novel thought. Maybe God really is God and perhaps God knows what He is doing and though it may be in eternity, all will be well.
Maybe the point of prayer is not to change God’s will and purposes but to get my heart to align with His. Perhaps prayer is not simply bringing my laundry lists of requests to the One who knows all and demanding that He does them, but maybe, just maybe, prayer is for me to change in His presence. The more I think about it, maybe is the wrong word. God is not the One that needs changing, I am. God is not the One Who is out of control emotionally, I am. God is not the One that needs to regroup and refocus, I am. Perhaps the point of praying is for me to come to the realization that I am not God and that He is.
While there is more to it that this, there is not less – the point of praying is to change me, and not God’s mind or will, and I am just fine with that. With that I will close now, because I need to go pray.