Tom and I are away on retreat, listen and discerning God’s guidance for the next several months. This is always a refreshing and renewing time for me and I look forward to these days with great expectation. I am confident that God always hears what I have to say and God always speaks to me.
As we got ready yesterday I found Jesus words before the raising of Lazarus revolving in my mind:Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here. (John 11:41, 42)
I was struck particularly by the confidence of that prayer. Jesus knew that God heard him. He didn’t feel the need to shout or try to get God’s attention by repeating his prayer over and over.. He didn’t feel the need to coerce God into doing something for him, he just acted in the confidence that God heard him and that God knew best how to answer his prayer.
How often I come to God unsure of whether or not God is listening. How often I come feeling that I need to convince God to listen to what I am saying and take notice – more like the psalmist who cries God hear my prayer unsure of God’s attentiveness. How often I question the seeming lack of response.
What does it take for us to live in that confident place of knowing that God hears our prayers?
First we need to come in anticipation and gratitude – Jesus thank you is a heartfelt cry of gratitude to One that Jesus knows as a loving and caring father. Gratitude awakens us to the fact that God is already at work in the situation we are praying for. It opens our eyes to see what God is doing and molds our prayers to the divine will. One of my friends once told me that whenever she has a prayer request for God she starts with a time of silence to ask OK God what are you already doing in the midst of this situation? It is a revolutionary and powerful way to pray. Not just acknowledging God’s activity but expecting and looking for it at every step. We do not worship a passive God but one who is already actively involved before we start to pray.
Second we need to come confident that we are praying the right prayer. I have often wondered why Jesus waited two days before coming to Bethany to see Lazarus. I suspect that he spent at least part of that time listening for God’s voice, asking OK what do you want me to do here? I don’t think he headed off for Bethany until he was confident that what he planned was God’s will. So often we pray based on our wants rather than God’s desires. So often our motives are self centred not God centred. No wonder we don’t always get the answers we expect.
Third we need to come with a sense of the presence of God deep within our being. So often we pray out of a sense of our own needs or concerns without taking time to centre ourselves on the presence of God and remind ourselves that the One to whom we offer our prayers can and will only, ever respond in the loving way. God who is love can only respond from a heart of love. If we become confident of that nothing can shake our prayers and our eyes will always be open to God’s loving response.
Fourth we need to come expecting and looking for God’s answers. So often I pray a prayer and then dash on to the next thing, not taking time to notice and savour what God is doing in response to my request. We not only need to give thanks for the fact that God hears our prayers, we also need to give thanks for the answers.
I have a friend who keeps a prayer journal – jotting down his prayers, writing out his hopes and expectations for that prayer and then writing down the response that comes. He sees this as a way to more closely align his will with God’s. I think this is a wonderful idea but to my embarrassment I must admit that I have never implemented it.
Fifth we need to recognize that our prayers are part of a tapestry as this photo above suggests. They do not stand alone and the answers we get must be woven into that same tapestry. As a simple example it is no good praying for rain when our neighbour is prayer for sun and expect everyone to get their prayers answered. Maybe a better prayer would be God nourish the earth with rain in season and help me to appreciate each day as a gift from you.
In response to my reflections I wrote this short prayer which I am hoping it will also revolve in my mind and draw me closer to that abiding presence of God
Lord thank you that you hear our prayers,
Weave them into your tapestry.
Thank you that you always answer from your heart of love.
Draw us close with your responses.
Thank you that you are at work in every situation,
Transforming, renewing, making all things new.
Lovely, Christine. This will bless other Christian poets and writers too, so I’ll highlight your post on the Christian Poets & Writers blog – http://christianpoetsandwriters.blogspot.com .
Also wanted to say that I suspect many of us who write every day do NOT keep a prayer journal or engage in any form of spiritual journaling as it’s so much like our regular work. Hmm. That might be an interesting question to ask in our FB group.
Thanks Mary. I think you are right. Sometimes blogging can be like a personal journal though. I know that at times it has been that for me.
Very interesting assurance revelation.
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me[a] for anything, I will do it.
—Jesus of Nazareth
Do you remember asking Jesus for the BIG stuff when you were a little kid? You asked Jesus to give you three ponies ( a black one, a brown one, and a white one) for Christmas. You asked Jesus to bring back your favorite GI Joe after he washed down the street drain in a storm. When your dog, Tippy, died you asked Jesus to bring him back from the dead. When you heard about all the starving children in the world, you prayed to Jesus to leave an envelope with one million bucks inside on your doorstep the next morning so you could feed all those starving kids.
So why don’t you ask Jesus for the BIG stuff anymore? He said to ask for anything and he would do it!
Answer: When we get a little older we realize that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said. What he meant to say was this,
“If you ask anything in my name, I will do it…if…it is my will to do it. If it isn’t my will, I won’t.”
So as we get older we stop asking Jesus for the big things, the hard things, because we have learned that Jesus never answers those prayers. Ok, maybe once in a great while Jesus answers a big or hard prayer but it is always something that could have happened by chance anyway, isn’t it? Even really rare things can happen by chance. But Jesus never resurrects Grandpa or Grandma from the dead, no matter how hard we pray, does he? Jesus never reattaches a severed limb from an amputee, does he?
No, Jesus doesn’t answer those prayers. That is asking Jesus for just a little too much, isn’t it, dear Christian? That is why when you get older you only ask Jesus for the easy stuff: To bless your food. To give you a “nice day”. To keep your kids safe.
And when it is time to go to bed at night, you get down on your knees by your bed and you ask Jesus to bless everyone in your life; you thank him for having let you and your children live one more day…and then you fall asleep into your pillow…to wake up in the morning…to repeat the same prayer…full of easy requests, so you don’t ask too much of Jesus…who promised to give you anything that you asked for.
But, maybe you’re not asking Jesus for too much. Maybe the reason Jesus doesn’t answer the big or the hard prayer requests is because Jesus can’t hear you. Jesus can’t hear you…because Jesus is dead.
Dear Christian: You are an adult now. Just as you stopped believing in imaginary beings called Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, it is time to stop believing in and praying to an ancient man/god who died 2,000 years ago. The “Virgin Birth”, the “Resurrection”, etc., are ancient folk tales. Jesus doesn’t answer your prayer requests any more than Santa and the Tooth Fairy answered your requests to them when you were a kid.
It’s a silly superstition and nothing more, friend. The fact that Jesus doesn’t answer your “big” prayers is proof.
I am very sorry to hear that you have come to the conclusion that it is all superstition. God very definitely does answer prayer. I am often overwhelmed by the amazing ways God answers. What God does not answer are our self centred demands that are not within God’s will.