it is interesting how many different things come to mind to so many different people with one word. because there are so many different opinions on this one enormous topic, i wanted to share some thoughts i wrote down a couple months ago when posed with a question about the effectiveness of prayer. it made me start thinking a lot about what is the real reason we pray. here are my thoughts.
december 1, 2008
the question was recently posed to me, what if you spend months, even years, in prayer for something only to find out later that you already had the answer or the breakthrough you were asking for and did not realize it? would that time in prayer have been wasted time which could have been used to pray for something else that there is not yet breakthrough in? i believe the answer is no.
i guess it all comes down to the question, why do we pray? do we pray to get answers? or, do we pray to encounter God?
of course i would like to hear that answers to my prayers. of course i want to see breakthrough in areas i struggle in, such as fasting and taming my tongue, or that the larger body of Christ needs breakthrough in such as healing of diseases like cancer or AIDS. but, if i later find i have contended for breakthrough for something i already possessed and did not realize it, or even if i contend for years and never see the breakthrough i seek, i did encounter God along the way? prayer is not a means to an end. prayer is the end.
God restrained Himself to partner with man in releasing His kingdom here on earth because He longed for the relationship that partnership would bring. God is a God of relationship. we can see this all the way back in the beginning in genesis:
let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over... all the earth... (gen. 1:26)
God both has relationship with Himself in the Trinity and longs for relationship with man - to walk with us in the cool of the evening. could He have ruled over the creatures and the earth Himself? of course He could, but He chose to partner with us in relationship.
in prayer my agenda may be to get something, but His agenda is to get all of me. however that looks, however long it takes, He will take full possession of my heart and have all of me. if i approach my prayer life simply as a "to do list," i will be continually disappointed. i will look to my "accomplishments" in prayer, and not to the One who is waiting there to encounter me in a way i can never be encountered by anyone else. He longs to know me fully, an have me know Him fully.
do not worry about what you will pray for - just pray. come to the table and commune with Him. share the burdens of your heart. share the thoughts on your mind. pour out your alabaster bottle at His feet and as the aroma pours over Him, it cannot help but pour over you as well. others may see it as a waste - something that could have been used to further the Kingdom of God or kingdoms of men if used the right way (time, petition, money, influence...) but He sees it as a worthy sacrifice that He will not turn away.
the path of God will always look foolish to the outside observer - even those who are following Him themselves. why? so we will choose Him above all others and above the esteem of man.