Friday, June 9, 2017

Listening Prayers

June 9, 2017 The prayer list is never-ending. I say that, not in frustration, but as a matter of fact. Each Monday, our church office prints out the requests and praises that have been turned in the Sunday before. Usually, it consists primarily of prayers for healing of various ailments, sometimes for relationships or deliverance from addictions, occasionally that someone would find work or housing or guidance in decisions. Once in awhile there is even a request for a pet. Prayer lists are funny things. They are reflections of our own hearts, our desires and longings, our hopes and fears. When people feel powerless over their circumstances, they turn to prayer. It is only rarely however, that we begin praying by asking God what he wants done. For example, we pray for someone's healing, assuming that is what God wants. But what if God is using illness to awaken a sleeping soul to its greater need for salvation? We pray for a marriage to be restored, but what if God is interested in first healing the wounded wife who distances herself from her husband because that was the only way she knew how to deal with an abusive father? What if God is delaying that job as a way of teaching the job seeker to trust in his grace? I wonder how many prayers go unanswered because we assume we know God's mind, and in the process, have missed his heart. I have often asked people how they want me to pray for them; I have not often asked God how he wants me to pray for them. We are assured that we will have whatever we ask for when it is God's will. When we fail to search out that will, we pray ineffectively, and when we pray ineffectively, we soon cease praying at all. I suspect that much of my struggle in prayer is due to not having taken sufficient time to first seek God himself, and to yield to his will. Doing this first is necessary if we are to pray powerful prayers. So I am slowing down and trying to listen first, before making my requests known. And I am thankful that God knows what we need even more than we do. We can relax, and pray with conviction and power when we've taken time to listen not only to the command to pray, but also to the heartbeat of God himself, whose Spirit takes our prayers and makes them worthy of presentation to the throne of grace.

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