I’m should be working on my next book, but instead I’m writing to you. You are irresistible. You are! There’s something about blogging that’s warm and immediate, and you know what? You’re good company.
A little while ago I wrote in one of these blogs:
“ Do I really believe that the Creator hears one piping voice in a million billion, clamouring over all the centuries?
I believe he hears not just my words but all my unspoken thoughts, ALL my unworded longings. My silent voice. And even more than this, I believe that prayer is powerful. Not because of those who pray, but because of the one who listens. “
Now. The thing about blogs is, they’re like last week’s breakfast. You might remember what you ate this morning but you’d struggle to recall what you ate last Tuesday. Blogs don’t last. They are words spinning off into space, never to be seen again. And like a lot of breakfasts, sometimes they’re rubbish. But sometimes, as I write, I have get a tiny glimpse of new insight that I want to keep for a while, and think about. That last sentence I read was one of those new insights:
“I believe that prayer is powerful. Not because of those who pray, but because of the one who listens. “
I don’t ever want to stop questioning my beliefs, so that set me off on a mini-study, about the God who listens. Does he really listen? Is that just a cosy churchy idea that we take easy comfort from or is it a fact? Does it stand the test of the Word?
Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.1 John 5:14
If we are asking according to his will, or ‘in the `Spirit’ God will hear us? How do we do that? How does awkward, wayward, stubborn Luce pray in the Spirit of God? I looked for examples – we have the Lord’s prayer, we have the Psalms, and we have, in Ephesians, a great example of praying according to God’s will: Ephesians 1:16-19
I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you wisdom to see clearly and really understand who Christ is and all that he has done for you. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can see something of the future he has called you to share. I pray that you will begin to understand how incredibly great his power is to help those who believe him.
Everything in that prayer is to the glory of God. Paul is praying for Timothy but not for wealth or even health in this case, but that Timothy will be drawn closer to God. That’s praying in the Spirit. And those words are so helpful to us when we’re praying for friends, when our own words fail. Often when we need them most, words fail us. But God has the answer, always – look;
And in the same way—by our faith—the Holy Spirit helps us with our daily problems and in our praying. For we don’t even know what we should pray for nor how to pray as we should, but the Holy Spirit prays for us with such feeling that it cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows, of course, what the Spirit is saying as he pleads for us in harmony with God’s own will. Roman 8:26-27
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. Psalm 51:17
The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
Sometimes silence is prayer. I’m so glad. I find it hard to pray aloud with others, not because of shyness or anything like that, but simply because the words don’t come, the words are fluid, they swirl around in my consciousness, reaching out, reaching up, barely formulated. Praying on my own, silent and conscious of the presence of God, of course there are words but then into my mind floods a knowledge of someone I care about, and I lift them up in love, no words needed – or the grief of Ukraine comes to mind, or gratitude for the death of Jesus, and these too, seamlessly, are all lifted up, without words. He knows my thoughts before I have them, and so I offer them to him as prayer. God doesn’t require my perfect syntax, my wisdom, my amazing vocabulary, my thirteen languages (OK, one). He doesn’t need me to speak in tongues. He doesn’t need me. He loves me instead. And love accepts all weakness.
These are just my meanderings, but when I was thinking about God listening I came up with 5 jolly good reasons to pray. You may have 5 different reasons. Here’s my top five;
- I pray because I’m in love with God and I want to be obedient. I pray because we are told to pray, to pray continuously, without ceasing, to pray daily, to pray humbly, to pray together, to pray alone, to pray for all we need, to pray thanks for all we have, to pray praise for all God has done. I could give you all those verses but you know them and you can find them easily enough.
- I pray because prayer reminds me who God is and who I am. There’s adventure in prayer, because in prayer we discover God! We discover! Un-cover. Find an aspect of God that maybe we have never understood before.
Jeremiah 33:3. “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
When we want to hear God, we pray. If I don’t pray it’s daft to complain that he doesn’t answer!
- I pray because prayer places me, even when I’m teetering on the edge of rebellion, in a place of submission. Somehow, turning to God, puts me in a better place. It’s a balm to a troubled soul. Poetic, eh? Don’t roll your eyes at me, you know what I mean. Just turning to God is the first step in joy.
- You know that good old standby question when we are wondering about some course of action? “What would Jesus do?” It’s a question I occasionally ask myself (usually when I’m really tempted to go the other way) and – guess what – he would pray! Before his ministry began he prayed for 40 days, at his baptism he prayed, when he healed people, when he broke bread, when he raised Lazarus from the dead, he prayed in Gethsemane, and as he died he prayed. What would Jesus do, day to day, in good times and bad? He would pray!
- And one more reason, if I need one, to pray? A selfish reason. Prayer is sublime, uplifting, our greatest joy. It’s walking with God in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day, before sin entered the world. Prayer is reaching out a hand and finding the hand of God. Prayer is rewarding, demanding, difficult, amazingly easy, essential, intrinsic to life. Everyday life. The ups and downs of it.
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. James 5:13
Martin Luther said “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.“
Prayer is an open door. It’s a time we enter, and a space we walk into. What a privilege! There’s a sense of excitement as we approach prayer . Think for a moment of those Old Testament High Priests fasting and getting all robed up, hours of ritual, then having a rope tied around them, before they entered the Holy of Holies, the Sanctuary. Just one man, once a year, on the Day of Atonement, stepping into the presence of God… terrified, knees shaking. The rope was there to pull his body out if God struck him dead! Hah! That was before Christ. And now, now? Because of Jesus we step into his presence, God’s presence and reality, with confidence and trust. Right now. Whenever. Wherever.
Doesn’t that just delight you?
Some love praying with a prayer partner, or in groups, or in a whole great echoing cathedral. Some love praying in the forest, sitting in the garden, chanting soulfully in a hallowed abbey, striding down Oxford Street with a sandwich board and a loud hailer. One of my favourite prayer times is on the beach, another is driving on the open road, and another is sitting at my table, with music playing, and a glass of wine in my hand. Why not? Jesus dined with sinners.
Prayer is every moment of the Christian’s life, when that life is submitted to God.
Yep. It was a good thought, that blog thought of a few days ago…..
‘Prayer is powerful not because of those of who pray, but because of the one who listens.’