We had a long discussion about prayer in Old Lady Bible Study (OLBS) this weekend. I wanted to share some of our conversation because I think prayer is one of the most confusing topics of the Christian Faith. I already thought about deleting this and starting over, but decided it may strike a chord with someone or just be a great reminder.
The conversation started with, “Do our prayers change God’s mind?” “Is it prayer that determines who lives or dies from COVID or cancer or stroke or accident?” “Did this bad thing happen because I didn’t pray enough or right or long enough or I lack faith?” Here are a few things we talked about that this Jesus fellow teaches us about prayer:
And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. and whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.Mark 11:22-24 ESV
There is not follow up in scripture or history that someone heard him say this and ran out to see if they said to a mountain jump in the sea and it did. That might not be the point! BUT it’s directly followed up with ask anything in prayer and believe you have received it, and while you’re at it forgive those who have wronged you. So just as no one asked God to hurl a mountain into the ocean, because he’s not about tricks and shows, otherwise he’d be like a genie in a bottle and we’d all win the lottery, He is about fellowship, relationship and kinship. When I pray “Help me pick the right lottery numbers.” He’s all like, “Nah, I think it would be better if someone gave you an HEB gift card the day you didn’t think you could pay for groceries.” Your needs are still met, but your flesh is not satisfied, you can’t be tempted to take the credit. The whole lottery thing might have had a wee bit of laziness and greed involved. But I can pray that I would be able to forgive someone who does not deserve forgiveness and believe that I have received the power to forgive because I know forgiveness comes, not from me, but from him.
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”Luke 22:41-42 ESV
Don’t you think if anyone could have ever changed God’s mind it would have been Jesus? That idea that He is about fellowship, relationship and kinship requires something of me. Our prayers, like his are honest and heartfelt. I plead, “really God, this family has suffered enough, could you not just give them a break?” But God doesn’t have a formula that if you can get 60 people in the next 60 seconds, I’ll ease up on them a bit. I cry out for those in hardship and He hears me and they feel his presence and we begin to see his hand in their lives and I get some crazy idea that I should do something and it’s a blessing to them, and if that’s not answered prayer I don’t know what is! It is a lot like curbside grocery pick up. I can get online and order whatever I want, but unless I pay the bill and drive there to get it, we ain’t got no groceries! I love Chris Tomlin’s song God Who Listens says: “I’m not just hoping, I’m not just wishing, I know I’m praying to a God who listens.” It always cracks me up when Facebook pops up and tells me it’s someone’s birthday and I might want to send them good thoughts. What’s the postage on good thoughts? Do they go in a box or an envelope? Does anyone have a clue those thoughts were sent? It’s our actions that impact them, a note, a call, a text, and through prayer, I’m prompted to reach out and love on them. It is not the thought that counts!
The thing about it is … I tend to ramble BUT when we pray, it changes us. Our prayers open communication with God and help us see that whatever the outcome, He is in it with us. I do not have the power to change anything, I am not going to impact God’s plan, rather He has the power to change me, He can use me in his plan. Or I can flounder, wondering how in the world I’m going to survive this. When sickness, death, hardship, and suffering come and they will, it’s a storm we can weather by drawing closer to our creator to make sense of the chaos. He knows the desires of our heart, he knows we are going to plead for a positive outcome and in our pleading we find comfort knowing we aren’t in control. But we can trust in the one who does have the power.