Friday, April 13, 2012

Change in Prayer

Yesterday, I talked about the challenge of praying when writing about prayer - in general, the challenge of living what you can talk about. Not losing sight of God in the process of doing His work, if you will.

Because it's easy to do.

But I also hinted at what I'd talk about today, which is this: how writing this book on prayer is changing the way I pray.

When I say changing the way I pray, I mean both in the discipline of prayer and right in the thick of it. Writing about honest prayer, searching the Bible for authenticity of prayer, looking at the way God's people have done it and how what we're doing today is lacking and how He longs to answer us and what He's looking for - it is no more clear in my mind than when I'm stuck in the middle of a shallow prayer.

I start out praying for what I'm thinking I want to pray for, the things I'm asking God to be doing in my life. The tangible things, usually, for these are most measurably lacking and when I'm longing for them, that emptiness just haunts me. What am I praying for? Things like a job. Things like a mate. Things like strength. Continued health. Prayers of thanks for what He has done in me because yes, friends, I see it. I look in the mirror and am speechless at where I am from where I've come from.

Then I hit that point. That point where this prayer is poised to take a turn down the long and whiny road. Where I could easily slip into that practice of thinking the more words, the better, and the more insistent I can be, the more desperate I can sound, the more seriously He's going to take me.

Thankfully, and only because He makes His wisdom work this way, this is now the point my writing hits me. My study, my words, His words, history, His story. And I suddenly realize two things: my about-to-turn-obnoxious prayer is only tending that direction because I have some unmet need that I think will forever go unfulfilled if this prayer isn't answered exactly to my specification and soon. And two: whatever I'm praying so angstily for - ain't my unmet need.

It's something shallower. Much.

What I'm really praying for when I'm praying for a job is...ok, a job. But beyond that, purpose. Purpose is the greeter need, the longing that God can fulfill much better than a job ever could (and a realization that if I got a job, it might not fill my need for purpose, and then where would I be?) and with purpose also, stability. The income and routine and basic building block of a predictable life that is a job is stability. But how much greater than a job would be the cornerstone of eternity as I know it? And when I'm praying for a mate, what I'm really praying for is companionship or relationship. Someone to stand by me. But who greater to stand by me than the One to whom I am already praying?

So right there, in the middle of my shallow prayer, which is getting right on the border of selfish and disastrous, my study and my work and the words I am praying so hard to get right for the purpose of Prayse, stop me. Just before I take that turn, I am able to pull back and think about what would be a more honest prayer. A more authentic prayer. A more honorable and honoring prayer. And I can usually get there.

It's simple really - the answer to all of the above - is that I'm just thirsty. Thirsty for more of God, for all of God, for all He would have of me, and all He would have for me. I don't think that makes me weak. I don't think that makes me anything but a journeyer; a seeker. And I said on my Twitter earlier this week that I'm not a seeker because I don't know God; I'm a seeker because I can never know enough of Him. That's the truth. That's just how it is.

As I'm able to pray a different prayer, to detour from the long and whiny road I have known so well (I know; I hate to use the same catchy phrase more than once, but I just came up with that a few paragraphs ago and really like it. It's accurate.), what I find is two things: I approach God more honestly, more openly, more authentically, and more vulnerably. And two: He answers my heart, often unexpectedly, but with greatest gentleness and tender blessings. Sometimes, He answers with a softness and peace. Other times, He answers with a tough question, a revelation of something I didn't know I was asking or didn't know was standing between He and I.

I'm getting to where I understand the prayers of David and our other fathers of the faith. I'm getting to where I'm finding the God of the Bible with the same heart for prayer today that He had thousands of years ago and even yesterday.

Do you let your work change you? Can you break your habit to hear a new voice and be something new?

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