This one's an oldie but a goodie! I was looking through statistics for my blog the other day and believe it or not, the following is the #1 most viewed post. A POST ABOUT PRAYER!
Not about marriage or relationships or how I manage my schedule like a control freak. A post about prayer has been viewed more than any other. And I think that's cool!
That's why I'm reposting it today - after it was originally written back in 2013 - and will be on Periscope at 12:30 pm EST to discuss it and answer any questions you might have about it.
Prayer. A word that means different things to different people. We all know we need it, but then why do so few of us do it? Why does something which is supposed to be so simple end up being so hard? We know the importance of prayer and we could speak endlessly about the priority it should have in our lives...but in practice, we don't do it!
Sound familiar to anyone else?
We need to pray. I need to pray. You need to pray. We all need to pray. We don’t need to talk about prayer… or read about prayer… or have prayer meetings. WE NEED TO PRAY – actually pray, like with words…that we say…with our mouths.
There are different kinds of prayer: group prayer, liturgical prayer, contemplative prayer, etc. Those are important and not to be overlooked, but that is not the kind of prayer God is speaking to me about these days. I'm talking about personal prayer. Simple prayer. The kind of prayer that happens when we go to a quiet place and just speak with our Father who art in heaven (see Matthew 6:6).
Is it just me or this kind of prayer the hardest kind? It seems like it should be simple enough – pray/talk to your Father. But for some reason, I could do just about everything in the world except this. I could read my Bible, give to the poor, spend hours in community service, and attend every church service…yet all of that is easier than spending 5 quality minutes in prayer!
What's the problem here?
The problem isn’t that we don’t know the importance of prayer. I do and so do you. We tell others the importance of it all the time.
The problem isn’t that we don’t have time for prayer. That's a cop out. We make time for what we want. We find time to talk to our spouses and our kids and our neighbors and our Facebook friends and our tweeps on Twitter. Time isn’t the issue.
The problem isn’t that we don’t like to pray. True prayer – the kind that makes your hair stand up – is something that we wish we could experience. If we could somehow push a button and make that kind of prayer happen, we’d do so in a second.
So what’s the problem then?
IT’S OUR RESULTS-ORIENTED MENTALITY.
The problem is that we’ve become trained to doing something and getting instantaneous feedback. We want to know how we did. Did we pass or fail? Did it work or not work? Was I successful or not? We don’t like doing something and not seeing results from it.
A simple example – look at the world of Fantasy Football. Those who play fantasy football find themselves glued to their smart phones every Sunday, constantly checking for updates as to how their team is doing. Well, let me tell all you young folks how we used to do it back in my day.
We didn’t have online leagues that calculated your scores for you, enabling you to sign up for 3 or 4 leagues at a time. We did it the old school way – newspapers and calculators. That’s right. We had to wait till Monday morning to get the newspaper, check the box scores and then add up our own totals. And then – because I’m on the east coast and we used to get the early edition –the night games wouldn’t even appear in paper until 2 days later. So that meant that if you wanted to know the results of the Monday night game, you usually had to wait until Wednesday morning to find out!
Can you imagine that???
In today’s world, that is unfathomable. We want instant results. Instant feedback. We want to know how we did right away – did it work or not? But that doesn’t work in prayer. That mentality turns prayer into something mechanical, not something personal.
Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, author of Beginning to Pray, says this:
“Prayer is an encounter and a relationship, a relationship which is deep and this relationship cannot be forced on either us or on God. The fact that God can make Himself present or can leave us with a sense of His absence is part of this live and real relationship. If we could mechanically draw him into an encounter, force Him to meet with us, simply because we have chosen this moment to meet Him, there would be no relationship and no encounter.”
In other words, God is not a magic genie – someone that we call upon and say “God, I want to pray right now and I have 30 seconds to do so. So come and make me feel like a million bucks and solve all my problems right now. You have 16 seconds left do so. Ready? Go!”
If God were a wooden idol, you could do that. If God were a vending machine, you could do that. If God were Aladdin, the magic genie, you could do that. But our God is the Living God. You couldn’t do that with a living person, so why do we think we could do that with the Living God?
Prayer is not an act; it's a relationship. I don’t know exactly what that means, but I think I am gradually learning what it doesn’t mean and God willing, I’ll continue to discuss this topic more in the future.