A Dad's View of Prayer
I miss my father. Dad died in January of 2000, and I still miss him. I wish I could pick up the phone or drive to Muncie and talk to him. I wish I could tell him all about what is going on in our lives and hear what is dear to his heart. Sometimes, I just want to talk to my dad.
On the other hand, I have the great joy of being able to talk with my children, Peter and Rachel, several times a week. Sometimes they call to ask a question. Sometimes they text to share something that's going on. Once in a while, they even share one of those bad jokes they know I like. I love hearing from my son and daughter. Talking with them is not a chore, it's a joy.
What I experience in my relationships with my dad and my kids is what I experience with my Father in heaven as His kid. Prayer is interaction. Prayer is communication. Prayer deepens relationship. Prayer is keeping in touch.
At its essence, prayer is not about requesting stuff from God. Jesus encouraged us to make our requests known to the Father. It's not wrong to ask God to provide what we need and to take care of what we face that is beyond our own abilities. But prayer is much more than that.
Brother Lawrence wrote a classic book, titled, The Practice of the Presence of God. In the book, Brother Lawrence seeks to discover what it would look like to take seriously Paul's admonition to pray without ceasing. (1 Thessalonians 5:17 KJV) He talks about how prayer can be just as real peeling potatoes for dinner or washing dishes as it is in worship. Prayer is about sharing life with the One who knows us best and loves us most. It is sharing our heart with the God who created us and who loves us more than we can comprehend.
Prayer is not carefully crafting religious language to say to the God of the Universe. Prayer is sharing my heart with my Abba (Aramaic for Dad and used by Jesus to refer to the Father). Praying in faith means believing my Father in heaven loves me and hears me every single time.
Does God always answer prayer? Not if by "answering prayer" we mean doing what we ask Him to do. His answer is not always "Yes."
Sometimes His response is "No," because I've asked for something outside His will. I believe gambling is not a Godly pastime, so asking God to cause me to win the Lottery to make financial woes go away is likely to be met with a big "No" from Him.
Sometimes His response is "Wait," because either circumstances need to change or my heart needs to change before the answer to prayer can come. Praying for lost loved ones to come to know Jesus may be met with a "Wait" while God prepares the soil of their heart to receive the seed of faith.
Sometimes His response is "I have something better for you." I thought I was headed to becoming a school teacher when I was in Junior High School. Several teachers had a big impact on my life, and I thought it would be great to be a teacher. (And it is great to be a teacher, which is a vital part of my vocation as a Pastor!) But God's answer to my prayer to help me become a teacher was to call me to vocational ministry. He had something better in mind for me, and He has confirmed that calling over and over by using my life in ministry in ways far beyond my own abilities.
I want to be known as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. I want to be known as a man of integrity. I want to be known as a teacher of truth. And at a deep level, I want to be known as a man of prayer.
Here's the thing. The only way to be known as a person of prayer is to pray. To pray routinely about everything. To pray as the first resort to challenges and crises, not as the last resort. To pray routinely in a daily devotional time with Jesus. To pray while peeling potatoes or planting tomatoes or washing dishes. To live life in an intimate relationship with my Dad in heaven.
I want to be a man of prayer. Now to practice it day by day...