One of the first classes I took at seminary was called Pentateuch, which was a class on the first five books of the Old Testament. A major topic of conversation when we learned about Genesis was the vibrant prayer life God’s people have had with God since the beginning. There was Abraham bargaining with God over the lives of the people of Sodom. And Moses protesting that he isn’t a good enough speaker to be called by God, and God providing Aaron to help him out.
This led to discussions about how prayer works and one of my friends even made a valiant attempt to design an intercessory prayer flow chart—this chart tried to show how if prayer is coming at God all the time from billions of people, and some may be praying for things that conflict, how does God handle it all? Suffice it to say, no prayer flow chart was able to be completed.
Later on in seminary, we did our Clinical Pastoral Education and we became chaplains in hospitals. A bunch of us in our mid-twenties were sent to pray with families in crisis–a family who had just lost their dad or a woman awaiting surgery for cancer. When we met in our learning groups, we thought, do they know what fakers we are? Do they realize how scared we are? Do they realize we don’t really know how to pray?
But we were comforted because as Paul writes in Romans, none of knows how to pray as we should. But the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf with sighs too deep for words. So I would go into the room and just pray. Ask for what you want. Give it to God. Fake it until you make it.
But this is scary. Because people still die. Cancer is not healed. Kids get addicted to drugs. It would be so nice if there was a prayer chart that would tell us exactly how this whole prayer thing works, but there is no such thing.
So what I do is I cling to a story about a man that met Jesus. His son had a spirit that made him unable to speak and put him in seizures. He begged Jesus to heal him. Jesus told the dad that all things are possible for those who believe. And the man responded with what in my humble opinion is the greatest prayer in the Bible—I BELIEVE, HELP MY UNBELIEF!
I cling to this prayer because there are so many things about prayer that I just don’t understand. I believe that it works. I also believe that prayers are not always answered in the way that we think they should be. I believe that it is better to err on the side of just asking, or in other words, don’t censor yourself—God can handle even the “dumbest prayers” [I once prayed that God would make my blister stop hurting so I could finish my cross country ski run without pain—it didn’t happen].
I think what it boils down to is that you don’t talk to someone unless you have a relationship. God wants a relationship with us, so we need to talk to God. But it can be scary. Asking for something you want or need deeply, and knowing you might not get it can make you want to curl into a ball on the floor and cry. God can handle that. God can handle tears, anger, joy, belief and unbelief–whatever we give to God, God can take. And since none of us really know how prayer works exactly, what we might have to do sometimes is fake it until we make it. We believe, help our unbelief, God.
I’d love to hear how prayer works for you. And I pray that you know God is with you no matter what. Blessings on your journey.
Pastor Paula


2 responses to “Prayer

  1. I’ll never forget the first time I vocalized to Alex I was going to pray for God to help him see how his negative behavior was hurting our relationship. This was I think the 7 year mark, aptly named the 7 year itch!! He was so unhappy in his job; I was not aware of the deep anxiety and everything that was being done to him. So when I shouted that whatever was going on didn’t make sense and that I was praying for him. He looked at me like I had cursed him or something. The look was of bewilderment. He looked at me and said “I need your prayers”. That moment was one of true awareness that once you begin to pray, you are beginning to accept God into your life. That journey began 17 years ago. Alex and I set out to help him get out of that job. It took several years, but he made it out!! I mostly pray for strength, forgiveness and knowledge to make better decisions in life. I am praying for strength to lose weight and be a healthier Christian.

  2. I like the ‘fake it til ya make it’ way of getting started. C.S. Lewis once wrote about the need to love our neighbors. This can be really difficult, but we should at least ACT like we love our neighbor-eventually, our actions will spill over into our thoughts and SURPRISE! You actually DO love your neighbor! We could say that God is so amazingly loving, He REALLY wants us to communicate, in any way. Even little baby steps will be wonderfully accepted by God. He made everything, gave Jesus up to suffering & death, so He can certainly understand our requests, blisters & all.

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