Last night I didn’t sleep well and kept praying “Lord help me sleep”. As my insomnia continued I got more and more frustrated, and anxious. To be honest I found myself resenting the God who did not seem to answer even simple prayers like this.
This morning as I reflected on this, 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. He didn’t feel the need to persuade God to do something for him, he just acted in the confidence that God heard him.
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 take notice of what I am saying – more like the psalmist who cries God hear my prayer. How often have I questioned the seeming lack of response without even thinking about the inappropriateness of my prayer?
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 gratitude – Jesus thank you is a heartfelt cry of gratitude to One that he knows as a loving and caring God, the One he knows always answers prayer. 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.
Second we need to come confident that we are praying the right prayer, and that means listening to hear God’s direction before we pray. 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 praying and asking God about what he should do.
Third we need to come with a sense of the presence of God deep within our being. We frequently 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 only, ever respond in the loving way.
Fourth we need to come expecting and looking for God’s answers. I often pray a prayer and then dash onto 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.
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 for hearing our prayers,
Thank you that your spirit stirs within,
Thank you that you are at work,
Transforming, renewing, making all things new.