Monday, October 29, 2012

What Does Faith Look Like - a View of Prayer

In this first installment of our web series, I'm going for the deep end of a well-occupied pool. 

Prayer is something that is personal, intimate and alive, so I won't be revealing all of its mysteries here in this post.  That and many other, much more qualified writers have tread this path.  I'm going to wager no topic has been more thoroughly covered in the Christian writing realm than prayer.  Jesus mentioned prayer 17 times Himself!  That means, God takes that we communicate with Him seriously.

Prayer, more than any part of the Christian faith, is an individual expression of our faith.  Whether you are praying silently, out-loud and in a group - how you relate to God is contained in your prayers.  Scripture doesn't just tell us - it commands us - to pray, in any and all situations.  The reason is primarily spiritual - prayer unifies us with the Trinity - communing all at once with the Father, Son and Spirit.  But prayer also brings with it a calmness to our physical beings.  Prayer can quiet our minds and hearts, giving us assurance and clarity we can't find elsewhere.  Even "popcorn prayers" that are thrown up in the heat of battle matter because we are positioning ourselves into God's Hands. When we pray, God hears and responds.

(I'll leave the comments about HOW He responds for another time.)

I have prayed all sorts of ways.  I've prayed in my heart, mind, in song, in weeping, in shouting, in a group, with my face on the floor, sitting in a chair, half-asleep; you name it.  I have grown enough to know it is as important to name what you need, as it is to realize how God's changes your perspective during prayer.  For a visual, here is an example from Sunday, October 21st, that demonstrated to me what prayer is all about.

Natalie, my oldest, got a 1/2" splinter jammed under her big toenail.  (Go ahead and cringe now).  Total freak accident and while in hindsight, my mother-in-law (who was visiting and a nurse) and I could have removed it, we decided she would be better served with ER level medical care. My poor girl was in serious pain.  Always brave, when asked her pain level, she said 10.  (By comparison, when she broke her collar bone a year ago, it was only at 8).  I started praying before we ever left the driveway, but as we got onto I-10 headed to Texas Children's West Campus, Nats asked: 

Mommy, can we pray?

I reached my hand back to her and started pouring out a laundry list.  You name it, I was asking for it.  We were there about 2 1/2 hours and everything went very smoothly.  Natalie's willingness to let the doctors do what they had to do was remarkable.  And the care was excellent.  As we were waiting on her discharge instructions, it occurred to me that God had answered all our prayers.  I told her that and she turned to me.  All I could see were her huge eyes when she said,

Can we thank Him?

Oh friend - I could barely speak.  The presence of God was so tangible in that hospital room.  Her  pure-hearted request to pay homage to her Heavenly Father who had taken such good care of her was mind-blowing.  It reminded me that prayer is an invitation to cross the veil and experience God in our reality.  Her request echoed what prayer should be: uncomplicated, unashamed and unconcerned with anything but God.  In her book on hearing from God called He Speaks to Me, Priscilla Shirer writes,
Many children have an openness and willingness that God wants all of us to have.  They are naturally curious and delight in discovering new truths.  The Lord wants us to recapture these traits from childhood, for they point to reverence for God, humility and total trust.
Natalie reveals the truth of Jesus' words in Matthew 11:25 in that moment-

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

When prayer gets hard, cumbersome or fails to move us, we have lost our reverence.  In a word, we are trying to hard to be adults.  God doesn't need more adults praying, what He wants is the humility and trust of His Children.  Real, honest, good prayer is simple but effective.  Natalie showed me it can be as easy as breathing, if I would just get out of the way.  I echo the words of William Nicholson: 
I pray because I can't help myself.  I pray because I'm helpless.  I pray because the need flows out of me all the time - waking and sleeping.  It doesn't change God - it changes me.
Prayer is change for the better.  I pray the Lord of the Universe meets with you in your prayers today.  I pray He changes me to be more like Natalie.  I pray we see how He changes our circumstances for the better.  And when it is all said and done, just like my Nats, I will thank Him. 

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