The topic of prayer has been constantly popping up all around me, especially in the past couple of weeks what with crazy prayer activities (has someone been watering the prayer tree??), prayer posts and blogs, so I thought I’d take a step away from my “Battles” theme to mull over this gift that has become such a dear part of my life.
I spoke very briefly the other Sunday about how prayer used to be a matter of obligation and duty for me. It was also a great sleeping aid- I was generally zzz-ing away somewhere in the Confession/Thanksgiving part of ACTS. So what changed, you might be thinking? Well, you know I wrote before of those dramatic, pivotal moments you see in movies when suddenly everything falls into place and the main character has perfect clarity of understanding of how they need to proceed from then on and makes all the right decisions evermore… that didn’t happen.
In fact, I often have pictured God wryly shaking his head over my obliviousness as He has bludgeoned me with grace time after time, all those delightful coincidences, showerings of generosity and goodwill over the years that I never registered as anything more than good luck, if that.
As is often the way, it was the answering of a relatively small matter that first cracked my shell of ignorant bliss. At the time, my brother had moved back home from The Philippines where he had been living for several years. He was in the tortuous process of trying to get his wife, who is Filipino, and son into the States. Until the paperwork was sorted, they would have to remain in The Philippines. Obviously this was very difficult for everyone, and the process can take years. After about a year of this, my brother sent me a very dejected email about yet another bureaucratic set back. He hadn’t seen his wife and child in all that time. He was irrevocably missing out on so much of his son’s life (only a toddler at the time).
After reading his email, I prayed for a miracle. It was an awkward, slightly embarrassed prayer (after all, I was asking for a miracle of bureaucracy and at the time, I wasn’t entirely sure that was in His domain!), but I was determined nonetheless. I had never experienced a miracle in my life (so I thought), but I prayed with all my heart. You see, my brother isn’t a Christian, and I knew he wouldn’t be praying. I think most of that prayer was just “please, please, please” over and over again. After that prayer, I sent my brother a reply, just asking how things were going. He replied later that same day in amazement saying the visas had been granted and everything was sorted…
That was a prayer answered with a huge, unavoidable, neon YES!!!
Since then, there have been a few other memorable, immediate, miraculous answers to prayer. But some prayers have not received the answer I’d hoped for. And occasionally, I still find myself dozing gently… What I have come to realize and treasure though, is that prayer is a wonderful gift of communication with God. A God of miracles and the banal. A God who knows me inside out and knows my heart before I can express it. There is no need for hiding or posturing in prayer- they simply hinder. A wonderful book called “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller talks about the rambling prayers that start off so earnestly, then somehow morph into your shopping/task list- must remember to get butter / call the plumber, which leads to “Did I actually turn off my headlights…&*%$ I didn’t” and you run off to do so mid-prayer. I can’t tell you the joy and freedom I felt when I realized, other people do that to! And not just other people, but Other Really Good Christians Who Write Books About Prayer…! That released guilt and obligation and brought joy. Who was I fooling? God KNOWS what a numpty I am, and He just wants to hear from me.
So I hope you’ll join me in showering Him with your words this week – the good, the bad, the boring and the bold…
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.