Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire? Corrie ten Boom
Prayer is a conversation with God. It’s as simple as that. Jesus went to quiet, isolated places to pray to His Father. Many times I find that my most powerful times in conversation with God are when I get to be alone. Through the Bible God speaks to me and I listen, although I spend a lot of the conversation talking!
A Different Response
There are times when I have found prayer really difficult. When I don’t get my way, I sometimes grumble and think that God isn’t listening. Other times I have struggled to know how to pray for situations to change and have seen nothing. I know I’m not alone in the camp of unanswered prayer. I don’t claim to understand the mind of God – how arrogant if I tried! I know His ways are higher than mine (Isaiah 55:9). I also know that God the Son asked for His suffering to be taken away, but He was crucified anyways (Luke 22:42).
Yet, the response of Christ is completely different from my whining, frustrated, inward-looking, my-way-is-best attitude. Jesus said ‘yet not my will, but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42). This is something that I am learning more about through tough situations in my life, although I’m sad to say it often feels I say it through gritted teeth.
I want my way Lord! However…
Jesus knows me better than I know myself.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139:1-6 NIV
Just as Christ’s humanity didn’t want to endure the torture of the cross, my humanity doesn’t want to experience discomfort, loss, pain and frustration. I’d rather not compare my grumbling to the death of Jesus though! The process of becoming more like Jesus as a Christian is life-long. It’s a wrestling between the flesh (our natural tendency toward sin) and the Spirit of God in us.
I was looking through some journals where I have written sermon notes and prayers over the years. One of the notes was ‘J.O.Y’ – thinking about Jesus first, then others, then yourself. That’s a timely reminder. Jesus first. How often do I put Christ first in my decision-making?
A few of my prayers asked God to help me not to be prideful. It’s only within the last couple of years that I have begun to see this answer to prayer. When things that I was proud of and relied on have been stripped away, it’s been painful. I must have forgot the memo that humility is the opposite of pride. It’s been one lesson after another in humility and I STILL need God’s help in this area of my life.
Keeping a record of prayers has enabled me to look back and see how God has worked in all of these areas of my life. It also speaks beautifully into my present situation as I read words that speakers and pastors have shared over the years. God’s Word never gets old – it is timeless and for that I am so thankful.
Praying to God as Father
Father’s Day is coming up soon in the UK. It can bring mixed emotions depending on what experience of having a dad has been like. Some grieve the loss of a loving, caring dad. Others don’t know who their father is. Many have been badly abused and mistreated by the very men who should have been guiding and encouraging them throughout their lives.
I never met my real father. But one thing I do have is a Father God who loves me so much, who will never leave me and who is shaping me through the various trials, triumphs, mountaintop highs and deep-valley lows of life. I can speak directly to God the Father because Jesus made it possible.
Because of Jesus dying for the sins of the world on that cross, God the Father has forgiven us all. If we repent of our sins and turn to Christ we can come before the Father. Jesus said:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well…” John 14:6-7 NIV
I may not have the experience of having a father, but I do have the deep joy of knowing just how much I am loved and cared for by God. Just like a good father should lovingly lead and discipline his child, God is directing and refining me step-by-step, prayer-by-prayer.
And yeah. Sometimes it hurts. At times I still have inward tantrums (sulking, crying, anger etc.) when things don’t go the way I had hoped in life. What’s more amusing is how I now have a 20 month old who is displaying physically (through back-arching and hitting) how I feel emotionally (by crying and anger)! All the while, my Father gives me His peace, His patience, His kindness, His love. Whether I choose to receive and walk in that is up to me. He can see all the things that I can’t. If I take a wrong turn, it may result in consequences that are not helpful, but even then, God never stops leading me. He is always there. Always.
Who do you trust?
I know I’d want Bear Grylls around if I found myself in a outdoor, survival expedition because he has knowledge and practical experience to get through some of the toughest terrain and situations on the planet. He also knows a bit about what to eat. I’d probably eat a poisonous plant and that would be the end…
It makes sense to put our trust in someone who knows what they are talking about (for the most part), especially when it comes to our lives and the lives of others. We trust doctors to make us well, we trust teachers to educate our children, we trust firefighters to put our fires, we trust the post office to take our mail, we trust the chair to take our weight, we trust the chefs at a restaurant to not tamper with our food. I could go on and on.
When it comes to our lives and the lives of those we love (and even those we struggle to like), can we trust the Lord? Can we trust God when we have nothing to eat? Can we trust God when the bank account is empty? Can we trust God when we have nowhere to live? Can we trust God when our health is taken from us? Can we trust God when circumstances that are challenging do not seem to be changing? Can we trust God when we lose someone close to us? Can we trust God when the pain is deep and the cost is great?
It’s easy for me to type on a laptop in the comfort of my own home and speak of trusting in God. But am I really exercising that trust? Surely it is when the very things that I place my trust in are taken away – that is when I am desperate and leaning on God because I have nothing else left. Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, who said whispered prayers from inside a concentration camp said:
‘You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.’
So often people encounter God when they do not have much or when circumstances are bleak. In times of crisis, people gather together and offer up prayers. The community comes together to support one another. Self-sufficiency and greed goes out of the window and is replaced by the gentle love of others bringing resources together to help one another.
Whatever situation we are in, we can come to God in prayer knowing that He is a loving Father who knows what we need. He brings people into our lives at just the right time to help us. He gives us Himself – He is all we need. He shows us new ways of looking at things. He gives us a peace that goes beyond all understanding. He can change our hearts and lives daily if we trust in Him. He is the hope of our salvation. He loves you.
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 NIV