Friday, December 07, 2007

Prayer

So it's not often I refrain from posting, or even bother to think about what I post. Most of the time whatever hits this blog is a pretty raw and unfiltered "from my brain to the keyboard" connection. Thats why sometimes I go back, read what I have wrote, and immediately put my head in my hands and wonder what drugs I was on when I wrote THAT post.

This post is different.

I have spent 3 days thinking on this, contemplating this, and really trying to wrap my brain on how I want to communicate my feelings. We will see how this goes.

So the other day Justin was down helping me with my truck and as we were getting to try it one last time, I made a comment that we should pray for the truck, and then in jest I said that HE should be the one to pray since he is a pastor and obviously God would hear his prayer better than mine (again, this was in jest, bad theology is bad).

I am going to have to paraphrase because I don't remember the exact words he used, but it was along the lines of "I don't think prayer should be treated like rubbing the voodoo rabbit's foot" implying that sending a prayer up to God was merely like some sort of "good luck charm" in this situation. We had a brief conversation about sovereignty and I think there was some really good conversation to be had, but it was raining, my truck wasn't working, I was on a break from work, and we had a loooong way to push the truck. So sadly the situation went mostly ignored.

But I went home that day and thought about what Justin said, and for the last 3 days it has really stuck in my head. I have come to the conclusion: I couldn't disagree more with Justin's comments.

I know Justin believes in prayer, and believes in the miraculous power of God, that isn't the issue, I think the issue probably (and I am hoping to elicit some response and discussion here, so hopefully he can correct me if I am wrong here) comes down to what is and isn't "frivolous" prayer. I know people pray for medical healing, believing that God can heal a sick child/parent/friend etc (Jeremiah 30:17), and I know people pray if they have a loved one that is lost, etc. So why would we say "God can heal people" (either via miraculous healing or via doctors insight) and "God can find my lost child" (again either by bringing the child in to safety or by leading rescue workers to find him) but in the same breadth, we dismiss "praying for healing of a vehicle" or "praying to help me find my lost keys."

I believe that God is all powerful, nothing is out of his realm. I also believe that unlike us, issues never tax him. So the thinking that "I don't want to bother God with this little thing" is wrong, nothing bothers God (1 John 5:14). If he had the time to count the number of hairs on my head or grains of sand on a beach or stars in the sky (all things we know he knows), I am pretty sure finding my keys isn't a big stretch. If he can heal the blind, make the lame walk, and cure leprosy I am pretty sure whatever is wrong with my man made engine isn't going to befuddle him.

And I think there is very real value in small prayers or as I my wife would deem it "praying selfishly." (2 Kings 20:5-6) [Although on this note, we must understand that prayer is only answered when we pray in God's will, not ours (James 4:3)] The simple fact is, Christ came and died so that we would have access to the father. Outside of being the ultimate sacrifice, the next biggest thing Christ did was creating a conduit for us to communicate with God the father directly (1 Timothy 2:5). And Christ implores us to communicate with him daily/hourly/minutely/continously (1 Thessalonians 5:17). While I don't believe God is the great "slot machine in the sky" and you just put in a prayer and out pops the prize there is VERY REAL value in communicating with God your hopes, your dreams, your desires, your fears, your concerns, etc. Often times those things are manifested in the little aspects of your daily life.

Back to the original example, my truck. When I am asking for prayer for my truck, I am implying that I have a fear about it not working, and that means I am going to be out both a car and money, which leads to fear about providing for my family and uncertainty over the future. While "fixing my truck" seems like a frivolous thing to us humans and we don't understand why God would be interested in it, what we are really dealing with when praying for things like that we are praying the exact thing God wants us to surrender to him - control (Phillipians 4:6-7).

When you lose your keys and you are frantically running around the house looking for your keys, racking your brain to try and remember where you (or your daughter) left them, if you stop for a minute and offer up a prayer to God, what exactly are you praying for there. The prayer might be "God help me find my keys" but since God knows our heart, what exactly does HE see? He sees his child who has feelings of helplessness, frustration, lack of patience, worry, etc... and I don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to think that God hears that prayer as a prayer of "God help me learn patience" or "help me not to worry" or "help me to know you are in control of everything" or a million other lessons that God wants to teach us daily.
is that we are learning to communicate and practicing speaking with him daily. Do I think God ONLY wants to hear how he can help us? Of course not! When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13), he taught them to communicate thanks, reverence, and requests. As we learn to come to God with our requests, I also believe we will learn to come to God with both thanks and reverence as well.

I believe that God wants us to be thankful for the frivolous as well (Ephesians 5:20). When I see Maddie take her first step, or speak her first word or any other major milestones I am reminded how much I am thankful to God for this major blessing in my life, and I communicate that to him (as I believe most parents often communicate in prayer to God how thankful they are for their children). But what about when you find a dollar in your pocket or you hit all the green lights, or any other "minor" thing... were those out of God's control? I don't believe so (Revelation 4:11). And as such, I need to be thankful to God for those things as well, and by coming to him with EVERYTHING, no matter how little or insignificant we might think it is, we are teaching ourselves to communicate with our father.

So while those of you out there disagree with me and don't feel like "bothering God" with the little things in life, that is fine, or if you think some things are just too small for God to care about that is fine... but I for one don't think God is EVER bothered by us coming to him and just like nothing is too big for our God, nothing is too small for him either. So I am going to continue to "rub the magic voodoo rabbits foot" and I am going to continue to tell God how thankful I am for the many blessings he bestows on my life.

And when I finally get my head around the fact of just how big God is, not because of how he created all the big things like mountains and rivers and trees and what not, but because of the fact that he has control over all the little things, like where my keys are... I am going to be forced to fall on my knees and marvel at how awesome and powerful God is, fulfilling the last thing God wants us to express to him... reverence (Psalm 147:11).

24 comments:

AJ said...

1. This is longest post I have ever read.

2. I agree with you.

jeremy said...

Interesting topic.

I've had many thoughts on this, going back to being in bible college where at the start of each class, we had prayer requests. I remember students offering up requests for "legit requests," sick/dying loved ones, financial aid issues, but also others that i thought were trivial, like colds, headaches, hangnails, etc.

I remember being annoyed by those asking for prayer for the mundane nuisances of life that we all are subject to, or for things that we have the ability to take care of.

For example, my head hurts, well, i can take a Tylenol and go lay down. My car is broke, I can get it towed to the shop and give them my credit card. I have the ability to take care of it, so why bother God for it when there are people starving and dying in this world who have more at stake than i do at the moment.

I have learned since then, that its not right for me to be critical of others for being really distraught over something that i believe is frivolous. Just because i can take a certain situation in stride doesn't mean it isn't a more desperate issue for someone else.

Also, i'm pretty sure raising someone from the dead and helping your engine turn over are equally simple tasks for God to assist His children with. So its not like God is gonna say "this request is not worthy of my intervention." He is a loving God, and that is not a loving response.

Are you bothering God when in a moment of need or frustration, your first thoughts are to Him? I highly doubt it. On the contrary, i think that its a great sign of where your heard is at when your first thoughts in a crisis are "Jesus help me!"

kristi said...

I think God definitely wants to hear from us on everything in our life. Our days should be a day long "conversation" with him of thanks, praises, and desires. (that sounds pretty cheesy, but I think you know what I mean)
But I think it is pretty common of people to only pray when they have those moments of oh crap my car won't start, can't fine my keys, etc. I don't think that is healthy and I don't think God is honored by it.

Julia said...

On Wednesdays, in my pre-school we have a prayer time. Each 4 yearold takes a turn to talk to God. Some are thankful for family, some want healing for people they know are ill, one asks for God to have her mom pick her up on a unicorn. I love this time. I don't know how much they really understand, but I want to teach them that God hears ALL thier prayers. No matter what they are and even if he says "no". So, I say "amen" to every one. If it is important to them, it is important to me. I tell my best friend all my important and frivolous desires. Why wouldn't I tell Jesus? I ask my kids to help me find my keys. Why wouldn't I ask Jesus? Communication is the foundation of any relationship. Don't hold back.
Though building a relationship and looking for a wish-granting god are different. And. I am very guilty of praying more when I need something. I seem to be often very needy and God has all the answeres. Even if I don't like it. Even if I still have to take care of it myself.
Just my thoughts.

P.S. No unicorn showed up at school that day. Wasn't in His plan. (But it would have been AWSOME)

AJ said...

I think that it all depends on your state on mind w/God. Do you only pray for small things or do have a contanst state of prayer with God. I think it all depends on you and the big man upstairs.

boro (aka Phil) said...

Ryan,

Two thoughts:
1. I think you are the right track, but...
2. Where is your scriptural backup? Opinions are good, but it would certainly help you make sure that your opinion is good if you can demonstrate that your opinion comes from scripture.

Ryan and Shalisa said...

I fully agree Phil, let me add some scriptural references later tonight, I wrote most of this on my break at work so I didn't have the time, but I FULLY agree that if you are going to make claims you need to back them up.

Thanks for keeping me on track.

.justin said...

did GOD need you or i to say the prayer of "i hope this final try works!"? were our actions not "prayer enough"?

do you think if we DID pray, it would have changed our outcome?

did my actions, as your friend and brother, sacrificing my time and energy [which i'd do again for you anytime!] to help you carry your burdens and bear your weight in community not act in place of "prayer"?

i wonder if the gospel you are referring to of "jesus help me find my keys" is not an american-gospel, a not so distant cousin of the evil "prosperity gospel". i don't mean that to sound as harsh as it is coming across. and i don't think you have bad theology here. but maybe we've melded biblical poetry, our entitled-culture, and our favorite aspects of GOD into our theology of prayer?

i prayed for a student in our youth ministry today, with kristi, specifically because they asked for it. i prayed that GOD would be glorified in their obedience. i prayed for courage for them to follow jesus and represent him in the midst of trial. and i prayed that their character would grow and develop as a result of this event. i didn't pray for any outcome of this situation. that'll be what it'll be. and it'll be honoring to GOD if they act like Jesus in this scenario.

when you asked for prayer for your truck, if your real desire was to communicate that there was fears of financial loss, increased stress in your life, and uncertain future, i think that would be a totally valid thing to pray for, and i would have engaged with you in prayer for that earnestly. maybe i should have discerned your heart.

i appreciate julia's discernment with her preschoolers. maybe i shouldn't have thrown down my opinion of bad theology. some pastor i am! shepherd, my eye!

but is that REALLY what you wanted prayer for? or does that help make your case here? i think this is the root of my dilemma.

when praying for your emotional fears, i am acting as your brother, carrying your load with you. we are breaking bread together and remembering Jesus' sacrifice and his redemptive/protective work. you can CHOOSE to glorify him in your actions and response to this situation. a trial in need of perseverance, in order for him to grow character in you. for you. and for your family. and with that character, the final outcome leads to hope. hope that does not disappoint like a flooded out truck as the result of GOD's laws of physics and unfortunate circumstance.

i'd pray for that any day. but even more so, i'd want to live it out. act like it, and BE THAT HOPE for you. as the Body of Christ, you asked and i was there to push your car around downtown shelton. as the Body of Christ, i wanted to pick you up at midnight to give you a lift home.

prayer or not, i will contend for ACTION on behalf of jesus over WORDS TO jesus anyday.

by the way, what's the word on your truck?

i've been hoping for you that it comes back cheap. i cleaned MY truck battery contacts with a $1.88 wal-mart wire brush and it starts every time. if you want to borrow my truck this week, or if you need a ride into work, call me. i'll be there. like a prayer.

GOD is sovereign over all things.
even voodoo rabbit's foot good luck magic. but not because you or i are rubbing on it and asking nicely!


[these are some of my thoughts in response, i know they aren't clear or well dictated. my apologies.]

Shalisa said...

Prayer is not an action...it is conversation. Action is something entirely different. Our actions should honor God...as should our lips. However, our lips should speak to God...this is prayer. And if we are not specific in telling God what we want - this moment - this day- this year - for this person - for our family - for this world, should we expect that His actions to us should be any more specific?

Someone once told me that I was faulty in praying for specificity. They told me that I was limiting God. I felt ashamed when they told me that...and then I realized later that I, a mere human...created by all powerful God, cannot in any way limit God.

Ryan and Shalisa said...

Working down your list (it's long and self admitted convoluted so forgive me if I forget/miss something :P)

First of all, I sincerely hope that I thanked you profusely for your help when you came down, and I will continue to thank you for your assistance, indeed you were putting Christ's words in to action. I hope that I didn't come across as some sort of ungrateful wretch after this post, that was not my intent, it was merely the interaction we had that specifically stuck in my mind, and really did cause me to think greatly on this very subject (never a bad thing).

First of all you ask, do I think if we HAD prayed it would have changed anything. If I may be so liberal as to interpret a "larger meaning" here, I think the question is "do we need to vocalize our prayers and desires or are actions merely enough for God to know what we desire?" In this case, I very much believe that God wants us to vocalize to him exactly what we want and that it CAN change the out come. This is seen in the passage I linked in 2 Kings 20. Hezekiah is told by the prophet Isiah to "get his house in order" in that he is surely going to die. Hezekiah pleads with God, and as such God gives him 15 more years. God directly responds to Hezekiah's request and alters the out come because of his prayer.

Now on to the question of my truck, would it have changed anything if we had prayed... probably not. Mostly because I was praying a selfish prayer in that moment and I also don't know if I had "faith enough" to heal my truck (I jest, I jest).

But even then, I still believe that God wants us to come to him in all things. The reasons for my want to pray in that moment were definitely driven by "selfish desires" but behind that motivation like I spoke of was one mainly of fear. Fear of cost, fear of inconvenience, fear of shame (it's pretty embarassing), and probably most of all, fear of Shalisa :p I believe that my heavenly father, when he hears me cry out in a selfish manner he still hears my prayer and will guide my life in his will. Just like when I hear Maddie cry out for "more please" when she wants candy or something, I can discern that she is still hungry. That doesn't mean she gets more candy, but that doesn't mean I don't respond to her request.

And once again I will disagree (even vehemently so) with your statement that you desire action FOR Jesus over words TO Jesus any day. Christ is quite clear that what he desires most is a relationship WITH YOU. His main desire IS NOT to see us be missionaries, to preach the gospel, to feed the poor, to feed the hungry. These are all things we do BECAUSE of our relationship with him, but his main desire is just that, a relationship with him. This relationship is formed, molded, and strengthened by communication... if we are not in communication with God then we are not meeting his primary desire for us.

God does want us to be salt and light, to preach the message, and to be active in social justice... but his main desire is to have a personal relationship with us. This goes beyond just "hey Jesus, wanna be my savior, okay we're cool now, I am going to go do your works and commandments... talk to you in heaven." Thats very much NOT what he wants, he wants us to be in continous conversation with him... not saving it all up for heaven.

Just my take, but it's late and I need sleep. Hopefully I made sense and if Phil wants more scripture for what I just posted, I will go find it... later. Right now it's time to hit the hay.

james d said...

"And once again I will disagree (even vehemently so) with your statement that you desire action FOR Jesus over words TO Jesus any day. Christ is quite clear that what he desires most is a relationship WITH YOU. His main desire IS NOT to see us be missionaries, to preach the gospel, to feed the poor, to feed the hungry. These are all things we do BECAUSE of our relationship with him, but his main desire is just that, a relationship with him. This relationship is formed, molded, and strengthened by communication... if we are not in communication with God then we are not meeting his primary desire for us"

it is late, one should never watch "knocked up" and then read the longest blog ever and then respond but..

Ryan, I think you sum it up. This whole Christianity thing is fully about Jesus and relationship with him.

I have heard from some Christians that they don't pray and ask God for his guidance in a situation, they just go and that is their prayer. But it seems God wants more than that.

Acts 6:4 Apostles devote themselves to prayer
Acts 10:30-31 Cornelius prays and God answers
and of course
Phi 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Justin, I love what you shared about praying with the student. I think God is patient with my "fix this situation so I can go back to my easy life" prayers but I think He desires so much more. I think praying for God's glory and the refinement of character is often a more mature prayer. I think it shows my end motive being more of Jesus (relationship) not my comfort.

Great post.

.justin said...

here's another long comment...

you guys all know that i am totally FOR verbal and continual prayer, presenting our requests to GOD, continued and interactive relationship with HIM via verbal communication and meditative thought etc. etc. i agree with all that you've wrote above regarding these things. they are totally biblical and are crucial components to our life of faith and trust in jesus.


but in this situation of the truck, i must ask if our omniscient omnipresent Father needed ryan or i to "pray" that the truck would work, followed by the magical "amen" word? since he's omnipresent and we are both his family, was he not already there and already knowing that the "desires of ryan's heart" was for truck to work? did he need ryan to religiously communicate to him what RYAN WANTS? was it not obvious? i give him more credit than that!

maybe the prayer would have been for ryan's benefit? my praying to GOD, asking for GOD to miraculously make this work would allow ryan to say that "we tried everything!" for the truck. or maybe it would affirm that we are two brothers together, and that he is not alone in this. but was my presence and working towards the same goal not enough to communicate that?

as with my Journal article... did anyone pray for that? what did you pray for it? what if it was already on the path of "to be run in next weeks edition since we received PG's first". in that situation of truth from another perspective, what kind of a prayer is that? i don't think GOD is bothered by them, being omniscient he already knows what's going on, but are we hoping deep down to exercise our pious religion to force and manipulate the hand of the sovereign GOD in my favor? [that my article would be published, so i could be stoked about it.]

i'm all for RELATIONSHIP with Jesus. he is my homeboy, right?
i'm under the influence of the idiom, "actions speak louder than words". when i execute the ACTION of prayer [actually doing it] i am with GOD in relationship. when i execute the ACTION of service [feeding the hungry, pushing trucks] i am with GOD in relationship. when i treat my wife like she's a tender vessel and my partner, i am with GOD in relationship... do i need to pray to GOD to ask him to help me to not punch my wife in the face? or do i need to stop punching my wife in the face? [prayer optional.]


WARNING: speculation below!!!
do you think hezekiah was really going to die? or do you think it was a misdiagnoses or an overly emotional pessimist?

do you think the sun really stood still and the earth stopped turning? or did Hebrew poetry communicate that by saying the sun stood still... have you ever experiences a really long and hot day that you thought would never end and looked at the sky and said, "damn the sun is in the same place now that it was the last time i looked... up high and burning hot?!"

what does "unanswered prayer" do to the faith of a believer? let me unpack, and i don't mean to insult or cause offense with this explanation. GOD writes the laws of physics to say that fire doesn't burn underwater. then we drive a truck which operates on little firey explosions into some water, thus rendering it inoperable. we do all we can, in our knowledge to get the water out so the explosions can continue. doesn't work. then we say, GOD make the truck work! and it doesn't work, because there is water in the place where fire needs to be. [truth and physics] what does that do to your faith? should you keep praying prayers like that? asking GOD to remove consequences of your circumstances? [i know it was an accident to drive through the water, but you still managed to get into that situation.] while we were praying, why didn't we ask the GOD who is not bound by anything, even His own laws of physics? to change your truck into a sweet lifted H2 with a snorkel to prevent you from making this same mistake twice!

what if i was having a problem punching my wife in the face and instead of asking GOD for help to stop punching her, i asked got to make her less irritable to me?

then i should be punched in the face and told to stop punching my wife in the face.

working in a church, i have been around MANY MANY mis-prayed prayers. does GOD hear them? like a precious moments doll, i'm sure he does. does GOD interject into my life as a result of prayer, i'm a good entitled-american... so you bet he does [sometimes]!

it bothers me when preachers say before they start preaching, "GOD remove my words and place yours there instead..." it's as if they didn't work and study and labor of scripture on behalf of their congregation and they need GOD to bail them out since they aren't prepared.

you all also know that i don't really "pray before meals" asking GOD to "bless this food to my body" [whatever that means...]. i just felt like when i was doing that i was pimping out jesus and taking his name in vein. if i would have prayed that GOD would "heal" your truck, i would have felt that i would have put it in the same category. on the other hand, i would have loved to pray that GOD would comfort and remove your fears, and that you could cast your anxiety and worries on him.


so, really, what's the status of your truck? have you been praying for it to be healed since?

Shalisa said...

God knows our thoughts and He doesn't NEED our prayers to produce miracles. But without our communication to Him, I believe God becomes still. I believe we have sway with outcomes. I know this goes on to a totally different theological issue...so we won't go there. But yes. God wanted Ryan to pray for the truck. Yes God wants you to pray that your son sleeps in his bassinet. God wants you to pray for little things...all the time. The little things are the big things. We just are assuming that little things are selfish things. But the little things include praises. People have obsessed on this posting about the "asking"...but there is more to that in conversation. Anyway...

I also believe that ALL prayer is answered prayer. God has the power and ability to say "no"...and "no" IS an answer. Sorry if that puts a damper on anyones day. God answers prayer by changing our hearts a lot of the time too. That has happened to me time and time again.

About the truck. It was a bummer. And yes we hoped that it would just start and run like nothing had happened. Yes, we prayed for it. Do we have the finances to fix it or buy a new one? Kind of. But God doesn't want us going out "on our own" on anything. There is NOTHING in this world that God wants me to just "do" because I can. He wants to be involved. He WANTS to bless me. Because through that He is glorified. So my truck breaks down and I say, "Man what a bummer, but I guess I'll just get a friend and get it to the mechanic and have it fixed, after all I have the money." How is God glorified in this? But if I pray for it and I look for God's answer, I look for His blessing...then He can be glorified.

God didn't fix our trucks engine. He didn't start it up. It never ran. But...after talking with others Ryan remembered insurance might cover it as it was a flood casuality. God has provided for us through this. I knew that God would provide and bless. He always does when you ask for it. It wasn't what we thought it would be at first...it usually isn't...but the car was totalled and they'll send us some money to help us buy a new one. We're praying for a new truck now...just like we prayed for the last one. It might seem frivilous to you. It might seem silly. But it's not. It's allowing God control. It's allowing God to be seen in our lives.

.justin said...

[what good news about your truck!!!]


it sounds like these comments are coming right out of the pages of joel osteen's "YOUR best life NOW!".

this all reminds me of a short teaching i heard a few months ago. please watch it.

really, i'm happy for your truck situation. i wish i would have been sensitive to pray, at the time, for your fears and emotions, ryan. sorry that i let you down there.

Ryan and Shalisa said...

Justin, you are confusing the desire and need to be in constant communication with health, wealth and prosperity.

My argument is not one which states "we need to pray at all times for things because God wants to bless us" but instead "we need to pray at all time for things because God wants to HEAR us."

We were created for the purpose of walking and talking with God. Prayer is the ability to fulfill that purpose.

Do I believe that God will listen to and honor selfish prayers which bring about our health/wealth/prosperity and not God's glory... of course not! Like I said, God is not a "Slot machine in the sky" where you put in a prayer and out pops a prize, and I complete reject the blab it and grab it theology.

But you seem to have swung too far to the other spectrum as well, where we can only come to God for the "heavy" stuff and the rest lies on our shoulders alone. I reject that notion.

Again, it comes down to a relationship. No relationship survives just on "deep" stuff, we need to talk about sports/weather/whatever other little things come up to have a "healthy" relationship. Much like in our marriages we can't live at "high passion" all the time.

And for the record, yes I do believe that Hezekaih was literally going to die, Isaih the prophet spoke with the authority of God and God told him that he was going to die. It was through prayer that Hezekaih's life was prolonged. You know my thoughts on your whole "alagorical metaphorical view" of the Bible... I think thats a slippery slope where we remove more and more power from God, cheapening and weakening his greatness.

boro (aka Phil) said...

Wow guys, this is a great discussion. As must happen when you talk about prayer, it wanders into the realm of God's sovereignty. :)

Ryan, I love to see scripture references! (Good job btw) I don't know how many times taking the time to lookup scripture and it's context, even to scriptures that "I already know", has lead me to be more wise about what I am saying or teaching. If nothing else, it makes us take our ideas (if we are being honest) and put them up against the light of scripture.

Of course, I know I am preaching to the choir on this one, but I certainly want to be diligent to spur us toward the source of truth.


One thought I will add to this discussion.

Too often the goal of Americans is to avoid turbulence in our lives. When we try to 'pray away' the trials we are stepping outside of God's will.

Take the apostle Paul as an example in 2 Cor 12:1-10. He was in the middle of another, continual major trial in His life and look at what God's answer is in verse 9 'But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."'.

God gives us trials to force us to depend upon His strength. Then He will be glorified! (If you need another example, look at Job.)

What the Holy Spirit has been using the Word of God and other godly people is to challenge me to ask God for His help. To pray not that the trial will be over now, but that He will give me the grace to get through it in a way that is honoring and glorifying to Him.

Remember James 1:2 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds," and James 1:12 "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him."

Trials are good for us, even though we don't like them!


I know that is a little bit far afield from what you are discussing about prayer, but I thought it worthwhile to bring up!

boro (aka Phil) said...

Oh yeah, due to time constraints, more scripture support available by request.

jeremy said...

Why not pray for both? For God to help you through the trial, as well as take it away?

James 5:14? Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

When my mother had cancer, i prayed for both. Yes, i wanted to make the most of that trial, and prayed for God to help me (and others) learn and grow through it. But i also prayed in earnest for God to spare her life. In the end, it was His will to not spare her life. Does that mean my prayers for mercy on her body was selfish?

I think the "God, take this from me!" prayer is a natural response to an overwhelming trial. Jesus did exactly that in the garden. He also submitted to the Father's will.

The point is, in heavy times, your cries for help and mercy go to the Lord. He will help, teach, carry, intervene, etc as He wills in His sovereignty.

boro (aka Phil) said...

Jeremy,

Well said and thank you! I neglected to bring that point up in my post.

You did a great point of mentioning that you (and Jesus) asked for something but in light of acceptance and obedience to God's will.

One other thing to note, many excellent theologians have written many books on this subject and still never reached a total, complete, and final answer on prayer. Many good and sound scriptural principles have been reached, but no perfect answer. Discussions like this are great because they make us stretch our understanding of scripture, God, and their relationship to our daily lives.

As Paul wrote in Romans 11:33 "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!"

So let us keep coming to the throne of grace, even if we don't totally understand it!

Molly said...

OH my gosh.



i think my head is broken from reading all of this.

So, my turn to write a novel.
I agree with Ryan on mostly everything. As a teenager growing up in the church, it always seemed to me that only the 'big' things could be prayed for. Like death and sickness and financial instability. The frivolous things were never prayed for.
I think the best way for me to explain my opinion in my head is: when i was very depressed a few years ago, i couldn't pray. I literally had no words to say but at the same time SO much laying on my heart. I felt bad because (1) I couldn't make words to pray and (2) because of my upbringing and such, my problems were viewed as frivolous thus making me feel bad for praying for them. THEN i found this verse: "Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right along side helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our prgenant condition, and keeps us present before God. THat's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good." Romans 8:26-28 The Message.
Now, that verse is taken a slightly out of context in this example but the part i really want you to hear is the part about him praying for us, making prayers out of our sighs and groans.
I'm sure there was a moment when Ryan and Justin were pushing Ryan's truck and they let our groans of, "this is so heavy, i am tired," or sighs of, "when are we going to be done pushing?" AND i'm sure in that time God granted more endurance and perserverence to both of you guys so you could keep on going.
Now, i understand the idea of 'frivolous' prayers. Example, my mother prays with her students before lunch time. She asks for prayer requests but has made a rule that the students are not to ask for prayer for their sick animals. EVERY DAY the same kids would ask for healing for their animals. Obviously, this is important to them but to my mother it's annoying and trivial. Jeremy's first thoughts touched on this idea and really I can't quite figure out yet what i think about 'frivolous' prayer.

Also i think a lot of the time, we christian feel bad for praying for small things because we live in a big world with even bigger problems... i think we feel guilty.

we shouldn't. we've been blessed.

anyway. i don't know what to say- you guys are all smarter than me so i don't want to look stupid.

NUMBER 20!!!

.justin said...

molly = brilliance

Koralmae said...

Powerful post. You know I'm not exactly a fundamentalist, and I'm not shy to say that I do not view God as an external deity that lives in the sky and hands out rewards to the faithful and punishment to the evil. Perhaps that is why I have found some people to say that it is because of their prayers that their life, or the life of their child was spared. People who say that if it weren't for their faith in God and the prayers they made regarding the fortune of their loved ones, their loved ones would not have had such fortune.

I find this so dangerous! For loved ones and children who are miraculously cured from fatal circumstances...wonderful. But for those who are not... Could you actually think that it was because they didn't pray hard enough or because their faith wasn't strong enough?

I just don't think that is how it works.

Ryan and Shalisa said...

Actually Koral you hit the nail on the head on a very deep theological issue that I think Justin was trying to bring to light with his post. The point is exactly what you bring up and it's the very dangerous idea of the "prosperity doctrine" in which those who 'believe enough' or are 'good enough' can somehow have a wonderful and fulfilling life, whereas someone who doesn't have riches or isn't popular/successful/whatever must have obviously "angered God" and therefore is being punished.

This doctrine is COMPLETELY wrong, and is not backed up by scripture. No where in the Bible does God promise us "happiness" or "money" or "fame" or any other measure that we as humans would typical use as a guide post as to whether or not someone was being blessed.

Instead God offers us things like "security", but not in the fact that we are safe from physical harm (in fact far from it the Bible often states that those who are follows of Christ will be almost assured that they will be loathed and detested by their fellow man) but instead it is a security in where our final destination is.

I believe God wants us to communicate with him constantly, that is the point I was trying to make. God may or may not decide to fix/heal/whatever us and that is determined by his plan, which is far greater than any plan you or I could come up with.

Ultimately, it is best summed up by the verse: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" implying that if we were all to get "what we deserve" that is punishment for living sinful lives (even tho some live more sinful lives [Hitler] than others [Mother Theresa] they both had SOME sin in their life).

It is by GRACE that God bestows things upon us, not because we deserve/earn/or somehow willed God in to doing something for us.

Koralmae said...

Oh, Ryan thank you for being articulate today. Lord knows I couldn't formulate a complete thought to save my life today. Well said my brother from another mother. Hee Hee.