September 20, 2015
One of my favorite writers is a man by the name of Skip Hollingsworth. He has been a longtime writer for Texas Monthly and famously wrote the screenplay for one of my favorite movies, Bernie. I met him when my cousin married his niece and I happened to preach at his home church. I realized why he was a great writer – he asked great questions. My cousin quipped that, “It was a perfect conversation; Skip loved to ask questions and Arthur loved to answer them!”
I think that so many of us struggle with prayer because it sometimes feels like the opposite of a great conversation – we talk and we simply hope that God listens. We feel lucky if we ever get an answer. We wonder if we are holy enough to pray. What does God even need from us? Where would we even start? Even the scriptures about prayer sometimes seem complicated.
For example, Mark 11:24 says:
Therefore I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for,
believe that you will receive it, and it will be so for you.
But in Psalm 22, King David writes:
My God! My God,
why have you left me all alone?
Why are you so far from saving me —
so far from my anguished groans?
My God, I cry out during the day,
but you don’t answer;
even at nighttime I don’t stop.
Which is it? Does God give us all that we ask for or is prayer something that happens every single night without answering? Is it a one-sided conversation where we talk or a feedback loop where God always responds? Perhaps we need to stop focusing on what we get out of prayer and focus on what we become when we pray.
Becky and I have experienced this first-hand. We pray for lots of things together. Some prayers are answered. Other prayers are still a part of our daily pattern. Often I find myself telling God, “I really want this – I feel called to this, please make it happen.” And then I have learned to end my prayer with, “But God, help me want what you want.”
What I have learned about prayer is that some prayers I’m glad God didn’t answer. Some prayers I’m so grateful were answered. Mostly, I’m glad I prayed. We spend too much time worrying about what others will think if they see us praying (or hear us praying) and too little time worrying about our own hearts.
I’ve thought a lot about Paul’s instruction in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “Pray continually” and I’ve realized that what God wants is a connection with us. Prayer can be a complicated concept to wrap your mind around. Here is what I know — prayer creates connection and that is what our creator created us for.
The Well staff at St. Andrew is working on developing teams to help us do this better on Sunday morning. Will you begin to pray and ask God if that might be something he is leading you to? If you are interested, let us know. These teams will pray for the service, pray for those attending the service and pray for those who need connection with God. If you struggle to pray with God on your own, then let’s pray together – it just might end up being your favorite conversation.