Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Prayer and stoplights and parking spaces

This past week I had two different "opportunities" to talk about prayer with people.  I was the substitute bible study leader for our regular leader who was on a trip.  The topic: Prayer.  Later in the week I was helping Ryan teach a discipleship group at our church and this week happened to be on prayer as well.

I felt very unqualified to teach on prayer.

I talk to God a lot and I have heard from God a lot.  But I just don't have all the answers in regards to prayer.  I am not one of those "faith pray-ers" who claims the promises of God's word and banishes Satan from the room, and says Amen and Halleluiah a lot.  I love those people, but that is not me.  I also struggle with praying with the faith of a child.  I completely trust that God CAN do whatever he wants but it is hard for me to pray and trust that God WILL do what I am praying for.  I have friends who have complete trust in the goodness of God and pray knowing He will answer because He loves them.  I just can't do that.  I think I am a bit jaded.  

I do pray for the parking space sometimes...but I fully believe that God will answer me with a big fat NO because He cares more about my character than about my getting what I ask for.  And a parking space shouldn't be important to me when I live in this amazing country and I have food on my table each night.  But I have friends who see those little prayers as a way for God to bless and to gift you when you really don't deserve it.  I admit, when I pray what I consider to be a dumb and trivial or selfish prayer, and it actually is fulfilled in a "yes" from God, I feel pretty cared about.  And then humbled.  And often silly for asking but so happy that God heard.

 In fact, just this past weekend I was driving home and my car started breaking down.  Thinking of this blog post, I started to pray.  I asked God to "get me safely home."  And then I clarified..."home, meaning the house, not to heaven."  Then I prayed "and please get the car home, but not in a tow truck, rather on it's own wheels."  It was ridiculous and I was totally serious but also thinking God must seriously be rolling his eyes at me.  But then I got off the freeway, and for 10 stoplights in a row...the light was red, and just as my creaking and lurching car would come within a few feet of the light, it would turn green.  No kidding.  Every light from the freeway to my house.  Is that because I was clear with God?  I highly doubt it.  

A lady came up to me a while ago and told me a story of how she overheard me saying something to someone else at church, and she took it to heart.  She said it really impacted and challenged her.  Now, what she had recounted to me was a quick off-handed comment I made to someone and had not put any thought into whatsoever.  I laughed and said, "Gosh you shouldn't listen to everything I say!" And she replied "Yes I do...you are the pastor's wife."  Yikes!!  

Because of occasional conversations like that, I am very sensitive to the things that I don't have answers to.  Of course, I don't think I have entire answers for anything.  The bible says we will see "dimly" in this world but will one day see God "face to face."  I will strive to know God and His word each day, but my understanding of Him will be dim, at best.  I feel that my understanding of prayer is that way as well.  

People sometimes come to me and ask me how to pray.  There are so many examples of prayer in the Bible and they don't follow a perfect outline.  Yes the PRAY method is good: Praise God, Repent of your sins, Ask for what is on your heart, Yield to God's ultimate answer.  Yes the Lord's Prayer is a good model to follow.  And sometimes people yell at God, sometimes they sing to Him, praise Him, thank Him, sometimes they whine to God, sometimes they use simple words and the Bible even says that sometimes we can't come up with any words at all and the Holy Spirit in us will pray on our behalf.  Sometimes people hear from God in an audible voice, sometimes in the wind, sometimes a stirring in the heart, sometimes through a "prophet" and sometimes through the awesome-ness of Nature.  

I have to believe that prayer is as diverse as the people who pray and that God will listen, regardless of how pious, or how goofy, or how angry those prayers may be.  And in looking for, and listening for His response, I hope ultimately what we can come to believe is that God is saying "I am here."

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