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My Prayers

In my pursuit to cultivate the daily discipline of spending an hour or so with God (see my last blog post!), I have come to re-examine how I pray and the ways that I come to God in prayer. Or even how often. I'm struck by the way Jesus instructs us to pray in Matthew 6: do it in private, praying to God the Father (v5-6); do not babble and babble (v7), and then Jesus gives this example:

Our Father who is in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. and don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. (Matt 6:9-13 NLT)

Give God adoration, pray that his will be done, pray for provision/bring your requests, pray for forgiveness as we should have forgiven others, pray for protection from temptation and rescue from evil. Jesus then continues to talk about effective prayer in Matthew 7:7, “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened to you.”

Sometimes I feel like this is so formulaic, but you can see that it lives out the commandments of putting God first and foremost, and loving others as He has loved us. And Jesus’ example, his prayer “request” is so basic, for food just for the present. It seems the more I want something, the more I pray for the different possible ways to get it. Am I alone in this?? He reminds us to treat others how we would like to be treated, to forgive others as we have been forgiven. You can write a whole other thing about forgiveness! And then that we are not only pursued by God, but by the prince of this world, that we need rescuing from temptations time and again. And with all these things we are to keep asking, seeking, and knocking on the door.

How often is this how I pray? Only when I remember. The one that I get stuck on is the "no babble” part —asking for the same thing over and over, repeating just to repeat so that I can get through my prayer time and on with my day. This often happens when I want something so badly, perhaps when I’m praying for God’s intervention for someone, a patient, a friend, a family member or a job or a raise, or calling on God’s promises to happen on my timeline. Or when I am begging God to speak to me clearly; the hardest part for me will forever be sitting and waiting on the Lord to speak again.

Then there are the times that I have no words. These include the days where I must go back to work with a hard patient assignment that has me questioning and doubting the goodness of God. Or when the well-documented crippling anxiety and loneliness of my generation rears its ugly head—how do I pray then?!

I take comfort in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. We don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. (Romans 8:26 NLT)

Ultimately, I must remember that prayer should lead me to humility and obedience. For if I pray to the God of the universe that His will be done, I’m laying down my own and must be ready to follow and submit. I know my heart and thus my prayers do not always align with the desires that He has for me. But as I grow in my faith and relationship through this discipline, he is faithful in changing me. So, I am encouraged to . . . “Be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT)

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