Friday, August 1, 2014
I'll pray for you
I wonder how many of us really grasp what a privilege prayer is. The God of the universe, the King of Kings pays attention when we talk to Him. And that is what prayer is: talking to God. And He pays attention! Ever have a time when you're talking and no one is listening? I have. Even with my family, there are times I am talking and there's so much confusion, I realize no one is paying a bit of attention to what I am saying. It is a bit disconcerting and can make you feel bad, but you just deal with it. And talk louder. Or raise your hand. Yes, I do that. :)
Prayer is just one of many areas I have been screwed up over the years. I have come to realize and believe a few things about prayer that I didn't before. They are simple, but so am I, so I need simple:
1) There is no set pattern for prayer. Just talk to God like He is a person sitting across from you.
2) Longer isn't necessarily better. If you are not a new Christian, you need more than 5 minutes, but where did we get the idea that we had to pray a certain length of time to please God? That idea is part of the checklist Christianity I want no more parts of.
3) There's no specific position for prayer. I don't like to kneel long. My knees can't take it. I do most of my praying lying on my back in bed. Fortunately, I don't fall asleep easily, so very rarely do I fight sleep as I pray. And that isn't to say we shouldn't kneel.
4) Closed eyes isn't necessary. You can pray with your eyes open. I often do. Granted, the lights are out and it is dark, so I can't see much anyway, but I actually feel more in tune with God sometimes if my eyes are open as I pray. I get the reverence thing, but we don't close our eyes when we are talking to people, so I don't think God's going to scold us for talking to Him with our eyes open. I sure hope not, since I pray while I am driving sometimes.
5) God doesn't need fancy words. He hears whatever language we speak, even if it is redneck terminology.
I really hate to pray in public. Other than for food. If it will help things speed along, I'll pray for the meal any time. But I really hate to pray in church, and I figured out the reason a while back: When I am praying in church, or elsewhere in front of people, I feel I have to pray a certain length of time, and have to be careful how I word my prayer, the pitch of my voice, and what I pray about. You may as well say I am praying to the people, not God. If I prayed in church like I pray in private, there would be long pauses, quick changes of topic, bouncing back to something I prayed about earlier.... my prayers aren't tidy and perfect enough for church, so I'd rather not pray there.... or anywhere else public.
If we are not praying for people in our lives, especially those who we know need it, we are doing them a disservice. I know personally the power of prayer, and what it means to have friends praying for you. Especially when they know what you need prayer for.
A few examples of prayers for me that impacted me:
1) Back in February, there was a possibility I could get a new position at work, and with it, I would get Sundays off. I asked some people to pray about it, and was telling a friend of mine from church I hold in high regard. I asked him to pray about it, and he said something that blew me away: "Mark, I pray for you every day." And if anyone has a good prayer life, he does. I went away amazed and encouraged. We never know who may be praying for us.
2) Back around May of 2003, I had something bad happen. I called a former college teacher of mine for advice and prayer. This lady had taught high school for years, then went on to college. I hadn't had her for a teacher for 11 years. She uttered the same words my friend Paul did "Mark, I pray for you every day." I was floored.
3) Ever have someone pray for you over the phone? It has happened to me a few times, and the most recent one was Wednesday. A new friend God has brought into my life, Matthew Walker, knew I have been having a hard time lately with depression and other stuff, so he called me and talked to me on my way home from work, and ended it with a prayer. That is the second time he prayed for me over the phone. The first was after the tree fell on our house and I was feeling overwhelmed. How awesome he'd take time out of his day to pray over the phone for a guy hundreds of miles from where he is in Florida.
It is awesome when someone tells you they will pray for you, but it is even more awesome when you hear them do so, or they tell you that they have been praying for you. It is so easy to utter the words "I'll be praying for you", but harder to carry it out. Sadly, some people reflect the picture below:
It does take time, effort, and dedication to pray for someone.... really pray daily and when they come to mind. I have been making more effort to pray for some of the people in my life who I know especially need it:
1) A couple experiencing marriage issues
2) The previously mentioned friend from Florida as he runs a ministry the world fights
3) Guys in Facebook groups who have the same struggles I have who ask for prayer.
4) A young couple where the husband decided he is gay and wants to experiment. (And no, you don't know them, and I have never met them)
And there are more. Hurting people. Some of them who can't speak up in church and ask for prayer for fear of being ostracized and judged, but thankfully they have found some people who they can ask for prayer and say what for.
Which brings me to a great and important point: If someone confides something in you that you know isn't public knowledge, and ask you to pray for them.......
Pray for them!!!!!!
It is very possible you are the first person they told, or you are one of few. You could be in a very small number of people who can pray for this person and pray specifically, knowing what their need is. It should not be taken lightly. I know what it is like to confide in someone my deepest darkest secret. It is scary, especially when it is something that is so condemned by the church. It takes a lot of nerve, and it means the person has confidence in you. People with a secret struggle or sin don't go telling people that they have no confidence in. They tell people they admire and have confidence in, so don't let them down. Pray for them. Daily. Every time they cross your mind. And tell them you are praying for them.
There's a song the Gaither Vocal Band recorded a couple of projects ago that has some great words. Some of them say this:
When you can’t think, you can’t even pray
Please hear me when I say
You may not have the words, but until you do
I’ll pray for you.