Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Prayer Matters

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

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I keep saying it and I keep hearing it but today I am seeing it even more clearly—prayer is important.  Talking to God is important.  Even though we don’t all pray the same way, even though we can’t really explain everything that happens when we pray, it’s important.

Case in point: Judges 10.  Like just about every chapter of Judges, the people of Israel have turned away from God and are worshipping other gods.  The Philistines and Amorites attack.  The people in desperation cry out to God. 

But God says no! 

We can see his point.  “Didn’t I already rescue you many times before?  And still you forsake me.  So I’m not rescuing you anymore.  Go to those other gods you’ve been worshipping and let them rescue you.” (Judges 10:11-14 Krabbe paraphrase)

I found these verses to be scary.  God says no!?!  But I thought if we turned to God, he was always there, always waiting for us with open arms?  Yes, that’s what the Bible says…but with a bit of a caveat.  “If you seek God with all your heart you will find him” (Jer. 29:13, Deut. 4:29).  

How do we get our whole hearts involved?  That’s a big question, and I don’t think I know the whole answer, but part of the answer comes in Judges 10:15-16:  The people pleaded with God, admitted their sin, and got rid of those other gods. They made a change in their attitude and their actions, and got rid of something that was getting in the way of putting their whole focus on God.  They got rid of their back-up plan.  Well, actually, I think God was their back-up plan, so they got rid of their main plan and made God their main plan.  “A house divided cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).  A heart divided isn’t a whole heart.  A halfway prayer isn’t a whole-hearted prayer.  "When you pray you must believe and not doubt" (James 1:6).  God's got to be the main plan.

So the people confessed their error, got rid of the bad stuff, and pleaded with God.  “Punish us as you see fit, but deliver us from our enemies” (10:15)….PLEASE!!! 

I think what impresses me most here is that they had already prayed once and God had already said no, and they could have given up at that point and accepted God’s answer, but they didn’t.  They persisted.

I can’t help but think of all the times my kids would ask for something and I would say no, and it was curious to me that sometimes, instead of pleading and cajoling and whining until I gave in, they would say, “Ok.  Nevermind.”  What?!?  So you didn’t really want that?  “Not really.  Just thought I’d ask in case you’d say yes.”  Argh!!!!!!

As a parent, my psychic powers are not always sufficient to know when the request is just a halfhearted request.  But God knows.  And I think God knows that if something is really important to us we will keep asking.  That doesn’t always mean he will say yes, just like pleading and cajoling and whining didn’t always work for my kids.  But sometimes it will, and the point is that that we need to ask.  And keep asking. 

Jesus told us to.  No, really, he did.  He told a story about a widow who kept bugging a judge for justice against her enemy until he finally answered her and gave her what she was asking for (Luke 18:1-8).  Luke introduces the parable by telling us that it’s a story that Jesus told in order to show us that we should keep praying and not give up (18:1).

Prayer matters.  Prayer is important.  Talking to God is important.  Putting our whole hearts into praying is important.

So let’s pray and keep on praying!
*P.S. I don't know about you, but sometimes physical actions help me pray more completely. "With all my heart, mind, soul and strength" (Matthew 22:37 et al) sometimes needs to be "with all my body" and that's why I like the picture above.  What helps you?

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