Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Purposeful Prayer, Part 1

My family has been fighting some kind of a nasty virus for the last few weeks, and the other night, a little while after Nate went to bed, he started having a terrible coughing fit. You know the kind when the coughing will not subside and it sounds like there is a real possibility that a lung might come flying out? I rushed into his room, and stood next to his bed. Since he sleeps in the top bunk he is right at eye level for me. I made him sit up, and rubbed his back while he coughed away.

"Aww, sweetie boy," I said, "I'm so sorry you're sick...I'm just going to say a prayer for you right now."

"No, no don't," he yelped between hacks. "It won't work!"

As I sit here and blog about it, Nate's no-prayer plea is almost comical, but in the moment it made my heart sink. Thoughts began rushing through my brain about what was wrong with Nate's picture of God and the purpose of prayer, and I made copious mental notes about the theological concepts we would need to discuss when he was well again. But that would have to wait. We weren't going to address anything too profound right then.

"You know, Nate, " I said, "praying isn't just about getting God to fix things. The Bible says that we are supposed to pray, to tell God what we need, even though He already knows what we need. So I'm going to pray for you right now."

And I did. I prayed that God would allow Nate to stop coughing and get a good night's rest. God graciously answered my prayer. Nate didn't cough at all for hours, and slept peacefully until morning.

When he finally did wake up for the day, I looked forward to talking to him about the true purpose of prayer. I wanted Nate to understand that just because our prayer the night before was mercifully answered just as it was prayed, that God hears and answers all our prayers--whether we see it right away or not. But when I tried to talk to Nate, he didn't remember anything from the night before. Nothing. Zero. Zilch.

My perfect teachable moment was lost in Nate's slumber, but the whole thing really got me thinking about prayer--how, what, when, and why we pray. I thought it would be a great series to talk about prayer for a few weeks here at Spur. After all, what better to spur than prayer itself?

So I hope you'll feel free to share some great quotes or resources about prayer today and in the coming weeks.

For now, I'll leave you with thought and a verse. The quote below was inscribed on an English church in the Eighteenth Century. I think its application is almost universal, and certainly applies to prayer.

A vision without a task is but a dream;
a task without a vision is drudgery;
a vision with a task is the hope of the world..

"Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:17

May you pray fervently and with vision this week.

1 comment:

kahansen said...

Thank you for the reminder to pray whether or not God answers the way we expect Him to.

My thought on prayer is how nice it is to have a special place to pray. My favorite place is a small 2 x 2 area wedged in between my bed, night stand and closet where I can plop down indian style. It's a space where nothing exists - no piece of furniture, no book, no computer, no distraction, other than me and God. It's where I can talk to God honestly about the day and ask for help before I crawl into bed and start it all over again. How seldom I remember that Jesus cherishes the prayers of His children. I so frequently talk to Him because I think I should and forget how much He simply enjoys me sharing my heart with Him.

But it is not just for God's enjoyment that we pray, it's for us to know and remember that we are not in control, He is. I've been reading a book about Mary (not Jesus' mother, the other Mary) and her disappointment in Him when He didn't immediately show up to heal her brother. Jesus had a bigger plan in mind. He is good, loving, and can be trusted, even when we end up coughing the rest of the night. May He grant us strength and grace to trust in Him.