Thursday, June 26, 2014

Growing Your Prayer Life Through Faith; Growing Faith Through Your Prayer Life

"I'm praying for you!"

Thank God (!) I have heard this repeatedly for the past month or more. The prayers of others have left me feeling buoyant from day to day. I know physical healing occurs as a result of petitioning God, but the spiritual wonders and encouragement that prayer can facilitate are without compare.

"I'm praying for you!"

God forgive me, I have said it many times myself -- but not in earnest. Someone would tell me about a child bound by addiction, or a friend had lost her job. "I'll be praying," I'd say gently. And then...

James 1:23 says, "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like." Ever had those mornings, you put your contacts in at the mirror, but don't notice the big wad of toothpaste hanging from your chin? I wasn't much different when it came to applying or obeying God's Word -- especially in the area of prayer. I'd feel truly sad or compassionate for those who'd expressed a need, but feelings are only feelings; real prayer is putting your faith into action.

In James 5:16, we see how God feels about prayer: "Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." Simply put, do it. Pray for one another. Not some silly platitude you offer in an uncomfortable situation. Not even a heartfelt sentiment. Prayer is not sentiment.

I always envied those ladies at church who had retired, and "just had all the time in the world" to pray. I thought to myself, "I'm going to do that -- be a real prayer warrior -- when I grow up." Well, the time is now, folks. If I can again bring your attention, to James 5:16, it says nowhere, when you're retired, or grown, or laid up. It doesn't have to take you all day. You don't have to pray for everyone within a twenty mile radius. And you certainly don't have to pray for everyone on the church prayer list. Pick one or two, preferably anyone to whom you've made a commitment of prayer, and do it. (And it's OK to tell someone your prayer list is full this week, but you'll pass it on to friends if permitted, and you'll pray next week.) But don't get in over your head; that's when you wind up feeling so guilty or powerless, you do nothing. Luke 16:10 says, "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." If you can't faithfully pray for one person, passing out commitments to pray for others is vain and empty. Spare people the horse manure, and just say, "I'm sorry to hear that."

And intercessory prayer is not some quick "happy thought" that you blow through during commercials. Sit a moment. Search and see what it is God would have you ask for this person. Take your commitment seriously, as you would want others to do for you if you were deeply in need. Prayer doesn't always have to be quiet, intense communion, but  definitely more times than not. If you were going to ask your boss for a raise, would you pop your head into her office and say, "Hey, about that raise? Yeah, I really want one. Later!"? D'ya think you'll get it? If your attitude is cavalier and non-committal, why would your boss's be any different? It's no different with God. He wants to know what's truly on your heart. Adding, "Oh, and God bless Mary," to the end of your 12-1/2 seconds of prayer time doesn't really scream, "I'm serious about praying for this woman."

Years ago I had a teacher who believed God would give he and his wife children and provide for them. He said they lived that belief by not using any methods of birth control. Even in high school I was impressed by that kind of faith. Must've been, it sticks with me still today. On my little hiatus recently, I picked up The Autobiography of George Muller. I'd always wanted to read it, and I'd heard stories of the wonderful faith this man and his family had. I read it, and it was all that and more. I learned, however, that this man's faith was no more impressive than my teachers, or anyone else who has made a commitment to actively seek God and His righteousness. When we pray, we might be interceding for others, we might be seeking some change of situation for ourselves, but we should never enter into prayer without the knowledge that prayer is about seeking God first of all. He's not a divine vending machine. He doesn't want us checking off a list: prayed for him, prayed for her, logged fifteen minutes... I have discovered the power of prayer, and what I've discovered is that more than anything, prayer has deepened my relationship with the Lord, allowing me to feel more confident about asking Him for things, and more assured He will handle it in the best way possible. I trust in the outcome, no matter what, because I've prayed about it. The power of prayer comes from the change it creates in hearts as well as circumstances.

Just start slowly but decisively. Ask God for His help and guidance in your endeavor, and prayer can changes you, too!
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