“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning.”
(Psalm 5:1, NLT)
Prayer is such an interesting concept. A mystery, something I don’t completely understand. Illusive, something I can never fully explore. And too often, a chore, something I must do. I sense a need to pray. Jesus expected us to pray. And Scripture calls us to pray.
Yet, what is prayer? How do we pray? Why do we pray? I believe in the power of prayer because I believe God loves us and cares for us. From the hurting, crying depths of my heart, I call out to him, needing Him in His mercy to declare me innocent, needing Him to free me from my troubles, needing Him to hear my deepest fears, failures, worries, wants, dreams, desires.
I spent last year reading what others had written about prayer (to see some of the books I read, refer to: Books under Expressions). I taught several classes on prayer. I spent time in prayer, individually and corporately. I saw God answer many prayers, yet I saw many prayers either left unanswered or definitely answered with a no. Is that what caused the Psalmist to cry out, “Answer me when I call to you?” Did he wrestle with those unanswered prayers? Did his heart break for the answers that were no?
Too often we hear about name it and claim it, that God will give us whatever we ask, if we have enough faith or ask the right way. We quote verses like:
“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!” (John 14:13-14, NLT)
“I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.” (Mark 11:24, NLT)
“And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” (1 John 5:15, NLT)
Yet, somehow we sense there is more to prayer than expecting God to act as a genie in a bottle, granting us our wishes and protecting us from anything uncomfortable or hard. We sense prayer is more than taking our list to Him and running down through it, like a kid in Santa’s lap, throwing up a quick thanks, and going about our business. We sense that, maybe, there is something bigger our heavenly Father desires for us. Something like conversation, relationship, intimacy.
Maybe, when it seems He is not listening, He is, but He is calling us to something more, something deeper, something greater, than just giving us what we want.
Father, I long for you to answer. Show me the ways in which you give me what I need instead of what I want. May I always seek you in prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart, (From Colossians 4:2 (NLT)) knowing you hear me and and pay attention to my groaning.