Decades back I served a church in Lawndale as the college/career pastor, and although many of us have moved away from the South Bay, Facebook allows us to reconnect. One member of the group, Sheree Munday Wright, PMed a question which led to an intriguing discussion on a paradox in prayer. With her permission I'm sharing part of our discussion.
"Tim, please explain the difference between perseverance in prayer and that of believing like a child? Do you keep praying about the same thing if it's important to you? Or, do you pray ONCE about something important and let it go and believe like a child's innocence?
(Her question contains a profound issue. Jesus told us to keep praying yet also told us to trust him like a child, where we share our desire, trust he'll do what's best, and let it go).
My response: Nice question Sheree, and it kind of seems like a paradox! As I see it, believing like a child involves trust that God loves us and will respond to our prayers in a manner and time that is best for the kingdom, which isn't always what WE would consider our best short term option. That even when God says no or later, we trust that he knows and loves best.
Persevering in prayer means that we continue even when the answer doesn't come right away. I tend to not think that the longer we pray the better chance we have of God answering, which seems to be a part of Jesus parable of the unjust judge. But a parable has one central point, to continue. So why persevere? It keeps us aware that we asked for it, so when the answer comes we can link it to God and our request. I kinda forget some of my prayer requests if I don't continue (incipient Old Timers Disease, I guess).
And, sometimes God gives us a peace that we can cease the requests, like Paul praying three times to have his thorn in the flesh removed. Sheila experienced that in praying for her dad to know Jesus. She just got a sense it was OK to stop."
Paradoxes entice me, two contradictory statements that are both true. Trust like a child. Keep praying. But why keep praying if you trust God heard you and cares? The direct response is above, but let me suggest one foundational concept that unifies them--the importance of prayer.
Please realize I'm covering an area of mine that needs growth, so perhaps this post applies more to myself than to most of you. We can call it communication, conversation, , asking, supplication thanking. But at the core, prayer connects us directly to God. It enhances our awareness of his presence and care. It helps us think of our needs, whether spiritual or material or relational, and increases our care for others. It shows us how important he truly is to us.
No specific methods on prayer here, books abound on that, and I suspect different people do it quite differently. But I pray (couldn't resist that one!) that we all increase the value we place on prayer. I pray we increase our prayer lives, either in time or depth or both.
Kick Starting the Application
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the overall quality and quantity of your praying? Why did you give yourself that score? Are you satisfied with it? Why or why not? What can you do this week to move it up a notch or two? Will you do that?