Thursday, February 3, 2011

Praying and Seeking

In preparation for the worship team retreat where we had a workshop on prayer, I met with the ladies who conducted the prayer workshop. As we were talking, one of them suggested several books on prayer that would be good resources. Since everyone knows I don't like to read, I wasn't sure what to do. I'm already reading, "Satisfy My Thirsty Soul" I thought. There is no way I can pick up another book now. But I wanted to be a little prepared for the retreat, so I thought, "What the heck, maybe I can at least read a few chapters." So I decided to order the book from Inter Library Loan on campus so if I didn't get into it, at least I wouldn't be out any money.

So the book arrived and I began reading. Philip Yancey is the author and it is a book called "Prayer" subtitled "Does It Make Any Difference". ILL doesn't loan books for readers like me. They set deadlines for return within a month of the receiving date and everyone knows I don't read that fast even when I do read. I began reading a few chapters and so far I am really enjoying the book. So when my time ran out I just bought the book on Amazon. I'm almost half-way through and I probably have as many new questions as answers to old ones about prayer.

The author asks a lot of questions like, "If God really cares and really listens, why don't all our prayers get answered." And, "If some of us believe we are predestined then why pray at all. Can we change God's mind?" He raises a lot of questions that frankly have you thinking one minute about giving up on prayer all together and the next thinking you've been doing it wrong for years. I won't say I'm not struggling some with the ideas being presented but if the goal of the author was to make me think and ponder, he definitely has done that well.

I ran across a thought yesterday when I was reading that really made a lot of sense to me. I've gone through times when I've prayed and prayed for direction, answers, movement of the Holy Spirit in a situation and just felt nothing. Completely flat. Dry as a bone. And I've wondered why? Why, if I'm seeking God's will and asking for His direction, doesn't He respond. At least with something. A warm fuzzy or a stomach ache. Something.

In one revealing paragraph I found solace. The author first quotes Augustine who said with regard to the one that prays, "that he himself may be constructed not that God may be instructed." Does prayer construct us? Build us? Shape us into what we are and who we are?

He goes on to say, "I have sometimes found that I get an answer to my persistent request only after I have learned to do without it. The answer then comes as a surprise, an unexpected gift of grace." And here is my favorite part, "I seek the gift, find instead the Giver, and eventually come away with the gift I no longer seek. Asking, seeking and knocking does have an effect on God, as Jesus insists, but it also has a lasting effect on the asker-seeker-knocker."

We pray, not just to have our requests granted or to gain some prize, we pray because that is one way God shapes us and molds us. We've been instructed to do it and regardless of the answers we do or don't receive, we keep on doing it. We keep pressing in. And God uses the time we spend seeking to make us into the disciples He needs.

So don't give up on that prayer. Make your petitions known to God. Go boldly to the throne. The veil has been torn for us, so that we might meet with God face-to-face and have a relationship with Him. Prayer does make a difference.

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