I have been reading the book A Praying Life by Paul E Miller. I have enjoyed it, though it has sometimes made me uncomfortable. I do recommend the book. It has stretched my thinking regarding prayer. Along with the book, I have been wondering about prayer. One problem with prayer is that it feels so passive, and most of us are activists. If there is a problem, we tackle it and attempt to solve it. Prayer seems so “otherworldly.” We are used to doing. Jesus told us to ask. Prayer at the core is about our relationship with our Heavenly Father, and our Lord told us He wants us to ask! Cynicism is a part of our problem. A lifetime of things not working out exactly as we prayed or hoped is the main cause of despair and disillusionment, causing us to be cynical, sometimes secretly and sometimes not so secretly. What we mean when we mention that God is silent regarding my prayer is God did not write the story exactly as we had wished!
Paul Miller stated that nothing undercuts cynicism like a spirit of thankfulness. One aspect of prayer is to remind us that we are not in control. At the heart of praying is an acknowledgment of desperation. We cannot solve all the ills and problems surrounding us. We learn dependency by praying and how desperate we truly are. One of the mysteries of praying is that the real change happens to the pray-er. Something happens in the contours of our life, something we cannot fully understand or explain, but we are changed.
One aspect of praying that has always been challenging for me is wrapped up in the word ‘waiting.’ Waiting seems so helpless and passive. In 2021 and 2022, I spent a few hours in a waiting room while my wife Susane was undergoing cancer surgery. A waiting room seems to be where time stands still; each minute seems like an hour. You feel helpless, and your mind races; it is such a tiring and fearful place to be.
So when we hear the word wait in scripture, we think waiting room. Yet the word comes from an agrarian society and time. Waiting was a major part of life. Waiting for the harvest. Waiting for the harvest was anything but passive. In Mark 4, Jesus describes the farmer sowing, waiting, and harvesting.
Jesus illustrates such wonderful lessons, and prayer is both activity and dependency. We pray, and we depend upon the Lord. Life is both being and doing. ” Life is both holding hands and scrubbing floors.” If you truly love someone, you will not just hold their hand, you will take appropriate action, and sometimes the right thing to do is to scrub the floor.
There seems to be a threefold pattern in Jesus’ speaking of the harvest that applies to life and prayer
Let us apply this to praying. Praying is planting seeds. We are asking our Father to intervene, touch, heal, help, save and guide ourselves, our family, our friends, and the world. By asking, we are admitting our dependency upon God. We cannot solve our problems, let alone all the world’s issues.
Waiting. The farmer works while waiting. There is weeding, watering, and other work to do on the farm. Yes, God sends the sunshine and rain, but the farmer is actively involved in doing their part.
Serving. The harvest will come. As we pray, we must be open to what the Lord may say. Can we do something to serve and assist those we pray for?
We must admit that life is a mess, and yes, we must admit, at times, we are a mess! The good news is that God welcomes messy, broken hearts.
Write down those you pray for as well as yourself, and keep asking, waiting, and serving.
I pray that the Lord will show Himself mighty and gracious for you and your family today!