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Insert Correct Prayer in Slot

(picture originally uploaded to Flickr by mdevnich)

I ran across this post on the Burnside Writers Collective blog about the prosperity gospel as compared to the voodoo-type beliefs that cause people to kill and maim people with albinism in Tanzania.

It got me thinking about something that has bugged me about how we view prayer and how we teach prayer. I read Facebook updates that say things like, “Starting to feel better! Those prayers are working! Keep it up!” or “Your prayers worked!” as if prayers sometimes don’t “work.”

There are a multitude of books on praying and how to pray and where to pray and what to pray when so you can get your dog pottytrained in a day… OK, maybe not the last one… but you get the point. It’s as if we treat prayer as some sort of special charm or incantation that if we get just right or have fulfilled the prerequisite requirements that we will get the answer we want. If we don’t get the answer we want, then we did something wrong or… God forbid… God has a different (and better) plan.

Am I saying that we stop praying specifically for things… um, no! There is plenty of scripture to support the need for us to approach God specifically on behalf of needs and situations. I think God does wait for us to ask sometimes. And, yes, I do think that sometimes God does change his mind because we ask him to. (I won’t get into all the specific scripture references for these. A simple search about prayer will bring up multiple references.)

What we need to remember, though, is that God is not a vending machine or a deity that needs to be appeased. There is nothing we can do or say that will guarantee God answering our prayers in a certain way. When we treat prayer that way, we turn prayer into some sort of incantation.

Prayer is a dynamic conversation with God where we talk with him about the Story we are engaged in. We let him know of our requests, and we acknowledge his sovereignty over how those requests are answered. We plead with him on behalf of needs and events and people and situations we care about and we trust him to act in accordance with the greater Story he is working out through each of us. It’s a two-way conversation where we become more and more transformed into the image he has created us to be.

When we approach prayer in that way, it becomes less of a transaction and more of an interaction. When we teach kids to approach prayer in that way, then that sets them up for a lifelong connection with a deeply personal God.

2 Responses to “Insert Correct Prayer in Slot”

  1. Patti Kirkland November 5, 2009 at 5:29 pm #

    agreed. This post really struck a chord. A friend of mine years ago reminded his kids that God was not this cosmic busboy there to do our bidding if we asked correctly-politely, etc. Our circumstances are meant to change us. And that goes for prayer as well. We become more dependant on Him. Right now, we're praying for my husband's deep brain stimulation surgery for Parkinson's (December 8). Many people have told us that they will be praying. We appreciate everyone's prayers – and know that ultimately all is in God's hands– but our prayers acknowledge that fact- and acknowledge our dependance and His sovereignty. Our prayers — like good conversation- re-affirm our relationship and that's most important when facing the unknown.

    Thanks for this great reminder Henry!

    • henryjz November 5, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

      thanks… i will be praying for your husband as well

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