Some thoughts on prayer

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If you don't know what you're doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You'll get his help, and won't be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who "worry their prayers" are like wind-whipped waves. Don't think you're going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.
James 1:5-8, The Message

Sometimes, you have to change things up to get a new perspective. I'm an NIV guy, and there was probably a time I knew this passage word-perfect in under 45 seconds with the reference, but the slightly different phrasing of the Message made me think this passage through differently. The NIV uses 'ask' rather than pray, and although I'm not sure how one would 'ask the Father' that didn't involve praying, that concept got stuck somewhere in the gray jelly of my brain. You know, the stuff that comes between the part of the brain where you know things, and the part where you understand it.

Anyway, I've been praying boldly recently. Way to go, me!

On another front, a long-time friend has a daughter with a brain tumor. In one of the usual prayer request and status updates, I found some wisdom that really floored me. There's something awesome about Godly men and women coming through trials and being able to remember tenet #1 about God: "God is good all the time." Here's an excerpt from that prayer letter... ok, most all of it.

When we pray for people who have serious medical issues, cancer, major operations etc., it is often difficult to know how to pray. Many of us have prayed for serious health situations in the past. Often, despite our prayers, the loved one does not recover or the treatment does not work. We know that God cares and we believe that he hears our prayers. So we do pray for healing, for recovery, for wisdom and for God's grace no matter the outcome. We do not stop praying even in the face of major obstacles.

Sometimes we think that if we have a lot of people praying, that God will be more inclined to answer. But we know from scripture that it is not the quantity of people praying that makes the difference. It is the degree to which those praying are in tune with God's will that makes the prayers powerful. Would it not be God's will to heal in response to the fervent prayers of His people? According to the apostle Paul, it is legitimate to pray that our loved ones would "prosper and to be in good health."

I believe that God allows both good and bad things to happen to believers and non-believers. He "causes it to rain on both the just and the unjust." We are told to pray for God's will, but how do we know what God's will is in these issues? Here is something that I believe is helpful:
• God operates in the "heavenlies"... in the spiritual realm. Think about how Christ told us to pray for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. So there must be a spiritual rather than secular focus to our prayers. A prayer for healing on the physical plane needs to be coupled with a sincere desire for what God wants to happen in the spiritual realm.

Jenni does not blame God for her illness. She recognizes that God allows things to happen and what God allows is "for a reason." Of course she would hope to live a long life and to survive this tumor, but she believes that God will accomplish good through this no matter what the outcome. How to pray for Jenni (notice the spiritual components):
• That God would be glorified through this experience. To "glorify God" means to reveal God's character to the world. "God is light, God is Love, God is compassionate etc."
• That God would guide the surgeon's hand. (Mankind was made in God's image ... despite our fallen condition; God still accomplishes His will through the people that He created. So, we should pray that God Himself would act through the hands of the surgeon.
• That Jenni's treatment (including surgery, radiation and chemo) would bring about healing, both physical and spiritual to all who are impacted by this.
• This brings us back to the concept of asking many people to pray. It is not that the more people who pray will increase the probability of healing. It is that the more people who are involved in seeking God's will (in the spiritual realm), the more people will be drawn closer to God and be witness to His perfect answer.

So, we value your prayers ... so that each of us will be mutually built up in the faith.

And finally, I was just thinking last night and wanted to write down a short prayer:

Dear Jesus,
You are good. Help us to always remember that.
Help us each day to become more like you.
Help us to love others the way you do.
Bear in us the fruit of your spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self-Control.
And let us glorify you in all that we do.

Post written 9/16/2010, posted 9/20/10