Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Persistent prayer

Luke 11:1-10  The Lord's Prayer 

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.”  And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins,
    for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.  And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

This week the small group bible study  studied prayer, imparticularly, persistent prayer.  We learned, through the verses above, to pray and pray and pray, until we get an answer to our prayer.  God promises to answer prayers.  (Matthew 7:7 Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and it will be opened to you.)  Of course, we've all prayed to get a good grade on a test when we were in school, and then we didn't.  So, we know God doesn't give us what we ask for just because we pray.  In the bible it says Jesus asked God, "take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will."  We know God did not remove the bitter cup of crucifixion from Jesus.  He went to the cross and was crucified.  God's will was done in this instance.  This prayer thing is pretty confusing.  If God is going to do what God wants to do, what is the use in praying?  And further, what is the use in persistent praying?

The neighbor with the bread, in the story above, is in bed and does not want to get up to answer the door for the neighbor who needs bread.  Btw, these neighbors are friends, not just neighbors.  We were told we needed to put this story in a cultural setting.  Homes in this place and time were typically two story homes.  At night the family slept together in one room on the second floor and they sheltered their animals in the first floor.  Being the middle of the night, the neighbor tells his friend, essentially, go away, I'm not waking my entire family and upsetting the animals to give you bread.  However, the bread needing neighbor is persistent.  Seriously persistent.  So, the sleepy neighbor gets up and gives him the bread.

To me, this sounds like Jesus is saying God is the sleepy neighbor with the bread and if we want to get God to give us what we want, we have to bug him about it.  Does being persistent in prayer mean to be annoying?  This was a tough one for me.  After all, God knows everything, so he knows what I need and want.  And, God can do anything, so nothing I want is out of his abilities.  (btw, two churchy words for you here, omnipotent and omniscient, just sayin')  Yet, Jesus is telling his disciples God wants them to pray about the same thing over and over and over again until God answers their prayer.  This is what our group was told regarding persistence in prayer.  Pray until; 1. Your prayer is answered just as you hoped it would be answered.  2.  Your circumstances or perspectives have changed.  3. God leads you in a different direction.

I find a lot of comfort in these verses and some interesting insight.  First of all, one of the disciples asks to be taught how to pray.  This is interesting to me because these were Jewish men.  I'm sure they had all been bar mitzvahed.  They had been taught by their rabbi how to pray.  Obviously there was something different about the way Jesus was praying and the way John had been praying.  They wanted to learn Jesus' way of praying.  Secondly, we are reminded that God's name should be revered and not misused.  (this is certainly something I don't always do.)  We are taught to pray for our daily needs.  God does not grow tired and bored with our daily needs.  Neither is he bored with our request for forgiveness.  In fact, I believe confession of sins is encouraged.  God wants to forgive us and in turn, he wants us to show forgiveness to others.  This is a good practice.  I'm guessing it teaches us gratitude for what we have and compassion for others.  I think the world would be a better place if there was more of both of these attributes in people.  These verses teach us to ask to be kept from temptation.  God knows there is a lot of temptation out there.  By praying to be kept from it, we are reminded to stay away from it.  Lastly, by being persistent in our prayers we are reminded to be on the lookout for answers to our prayers.  I know I often pray and then put what I've prayed for out of my mind.  I've heard keeping a prayer journal is a good idea, but I'm not good at journaling.

Working through these verses and this study doesn't clear up everything about prayer for me.  I still have questions about why some people seem to be healed when prayed over and some are not.  One thing I can share from my personal experience is about a prayer I have been praying for a very long time.  I've posted about my son a little bit on this blog.  I like to keep his privacy intact, so I don't write about him very often.  I cannot tell you what issues, if any, affect my son as far as falling under the autism spectrum disorders or another attention deficit disorder.  There have been so many theories.  He has been diagnosed with aspergers or pervasive development disorder or executive function disorder.  He also has suffered from depression and is dyslexic.  I have prayed and prayed and prayed for him to be healed of any or all of these issues.  He has not been healed.  I have been persistent.  I have prayed daily for YEARS.  I got to the point of believing God must hate me or not be there at all.  It began to hurt my heart and harm my relationship with God.  (I've mentioned, I like God a lot.  His church, not so much, but I've always liked God.)  Lately, and I mean quite recently, I've noticed a change in my husband and son's relationship.  Lately, it seems, my son shown some desire to please my husband and to put forth effort to do what he asks him to do.  There seem to be fewer melt-downs and self-harming behaviors.  This gives me hope.  Maybe there is something to this persistent prayer.  Maybe God is answering my prayer differently than I had hoped and prayed.  Maybe he is healing my son through his relationship with his father.  Maybe God does hear my prayers.

172.  A very nice lunch out with my boss and several co-workers for Administrative Professionals Day (aka Secretaries' Day)  'cause I'm a secretary.  :)
173.  Azaleas blooming everywhere
174.  Using my imagination to see animals and people in the white fluffy cloud shapes
175.  Goldfinches turning bright yellow and sitting on my birdfeeder
176.  The feeling of hope in my heart

Linking with Shanda at On Your Heart Tuesdays

9 comments:

  1. Sometimes prayers are not answered right away.  I think you have something there with the relationship between your husband and son.  

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  2.  You are right about prayers not being answered right away.  God's timing is WAY different than mine.  :)

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  3. I love reading that things seem to be looking up with your son! My friend Billy Brown says that, when we pray, we participate in the work of God.

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  4. i find it interesting too as if i am not mistaken there are other verses on praying the same prayer being a lack of faith that they are heard...though, maybe that is just our own twisting of the word in our interpretations...prayer is def communication and god hears and answers too just not always how we want them...

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  5. Elizabeth StewartApril 25, 2012 at 1:22 AM

    This is a really honest and thought provoking post about prayer...I think you raise some of the same questions most of us have struggled with too.

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  6. Thanks for making us think.

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  7. I believe that constant prayer and truly having the faith to believe God for something is vital.  Whether or not God answers that prayer with a yes or not is up to Him and it is up to us to love Him the same when His answers are no.  Childlike faith means not getting angry with God but loving Him just as much when things don't go as we'd hoped.  :)

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  8. I totally believe in prayer. In my life, some things happen sooner than others. I've been praying for something for a year already and haven't noticed anything, yet. I hope I get my answer soon. I got sad when I realized that it's been one year. But it will happen, I know it.
    About your son, have you heard of the GAPS diet? It's becoming more and more popular. Some people are having great results. I just got the book and started implementing some of the recommendations (this is related to my prayer and what I've been asking for).

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  9. I pray asking to do the will of my HP.  I pray for those who are sick and suffering, those that I love, and those with whom I have difficulty. I don't ask for anything specific.  I have found that all will occur in God's time, not mine. 

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