Prayer, Plain and Simple

In a response to yesterday’s post, “Praying with our head’s screwed on,” “Kris” offered this comment: “If prayer is for our benefit why must we be so specific? Is it the time we spend on prayer itself and research in order to be more specific. Or is it the specific detail we give to God concerning our needs that seem to make a difference. Just curious…”

What are your thoughts? For what it’s worth, here are a few of mine…

… I don’t know. And I’m not sure God wants us to know. He seems very protective of his secret recipes for how the world works. Even scientists eventually come to the end of the line of knowledge, the further into space they look, and the further down into the atom they peer. Knowing “how” prayer works is also something God appears to be very reluctant to reveal to us. Prayer moves God’s hand, but “how?” just doesn’t come clear. I can flip a light switch, but I don’t know “how” electricity really works – no one really does.

In fact, I don’t think there is a single right way to pray, a formula to follow. Perhaps that’s because the object here is God, not God’s ways. Prayer is about relationship with God, not about pushing a particular button in some cosmic computer bank.

Details seem to matter in prayer… That’s about all we know. If the Bible is precedent for our lives – I believe it is – then we look at the first patterns for healing prayer laid out for us by Jesus as patterns to follow. Jesus seemed to address issues specifically and individually. He didn’t just wave his hand – he could have I suppose – and cure every sickness once and for all. Instead, he engaged with people personally and asked questions of them. He even asked one blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” not even assuming the guy wanted to be healed.

It seems to me that everything in life – including our need for healing through prayer – is a set up for furthering our relationship with God. God is not a recipe or formula or a control panel with buttons. God is a THE PERSON behind all personhood. When we pray specifically, with knowledge and intelligence, it give us greater opportunity to engage with God as a partner, a son or daughter in his great realm. Knowledge in our discussion with God gives him the opportunity to bring us closer to the ultimate role he has planned for us: ruling and reigned with him in this amazing corner of his creation.

Jennifer Schuchmann and I begin our book, Six Prayers God Always Answers, with some lines that, I believe also relate to this discussion:

Prayer doesn’t work.

God works.

We often get that confused, don’t we?

We think there is a certain formula we have to follow–a right way of doing prayer. If we do it right, God answers. It’s like using the correct postage after a rate change, the proper stamp ensures delivery. But when our prayers don’t get answered, we believe we’re somehow at fault. We prayed the “wrong” way. There are lots of ways we could have screwed up–not enough postage (or good deeds), mislabeled the envelope (prayed to God when we should have prayed to Jesus) or forgot to seal it (with a promise to do better next time).

Those are my first reaction thoughts to Kris’ provocative question…  What are yours?

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