The Power of Prayer
"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." — Ephesians 6:18
Prayer is important, and a vital part of being a Christian. Being a Christian is about a relationship with Jesus Christ, and prayer is how we build and express that relationship. But, often, we don't think of it that way.
We started a new series today, "These Things I Pray," that looks at prayer using the Psalms as a guidebook. I love this quote above from Tim because it speaks to one of the fundamental problems we have with prayer, which is we don't think about it as part of our relationship, but frequently think about it as a way of getting what we want or need from God, like he's a 7/11 clerk.
Earlier this semester I looked at the film "Evan Almighty" with my class. One of the great things about that film is the idea it presents about prayer, and our response to it. Evan prays that God will help him change the world. He is expecting that God will come alongside his plans as an elected representative to Congress. He's not really praying to be in relationship with God, or because he wants to be part of God's plan for the world, but rather so God will help him do what he wants.
Of course, God has other plans. And we can see how that would work with a lofty prayer, but the film also looks at it in a smaller sense. Early in the film, Evan's wife prays that they will grow closer as a family. She becomes frustrated part way through the movie and gets a visit from God. God asks her a simple question: if someone prays for patience, are they magically given patience or are they given opportunities to be patient? It re-frames the way she thinks about the situation, and it should for us as well.
Prayer isn't a one way transaction. We don't pray for things and God grants them like we're picking things out of a catalog. It's a relationship. It's trust. It's faith. It's a chance to be in the presence of our creator, to share our heart and, most importantly, to listen.
That's what makes the Psalms such a perfect guide, especially those from David. He pours his heart out to God in the Psalms, and it's not always pretty. But it's real. It's the way you would speak to someone you knew, intimately, not an anonymous being to whom you're requesting the answer to your dreams.
Prayer is important — vitally important. So, too, is the way we think about prayer.