Wednesday, May 10, 2006

prayer paths


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I touched on this a while back and I’m not sure if it went as far as I had hoped.

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I know that we are told to pray (Biblically and socially) for various reasons and I know that we offer prayers for those folks who are sick and what not, as recent posts have shown, but what are we really doing?

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Do we really have the power to alter the course of Gods plan? In the OT there are several instances of people getting God to sway on various subjects namely revolving around the smoting of a person or persons. The NT seems to revolve around guidance, bolstering faith and enlightenment of sorts. I know JC in the garden prays to “let this cup pass” but I’m not guessing he thought he might actually get out of what was going to happen to him in the next several hours.

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I have tried to adjust my prayers to the understanding, guidance and acceptance of what happens in life over attempting to change things to our likings?

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This might sound really hard but someone passing away might serve a greater good for another. I don’t want anyone who is a father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter of anyone to die under a difficult situation but people do and the best we can hope for is that the person was ready and that they were received by Christ. Maybe we should pray to relieve our and potential the passing persons suffering. Having been in this situation more than once, that is the only prayer I can offer.

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Perhaps the instances of answered and unanswered prayers (relative to one situation of course) are less of a miraculous event and more of Gods plan simply moving from A to Z.

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I guess part of this relates to various scriptures referencing the need to put God before our family and everything else in the world in every situation.

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I think if we should take anyone’s advice it would be that Jesus guys when he said in Matthew 6 “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” I know that’s nit-picking scripture but how broad of a stroke on telling someone “how to pray” should you draw, especially when that message comes from JC himself.

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If God knows what we’re going to be doing at every moment then wouldn’t praying for intercession and it working be altering Gods ultimate plan for our lives? Do the paths of coincidence/fate/destiny and prayer cross more than we want to think it might?

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Please don’t get me wrong I believe in prayer whole heartedly, I just think the prayer has to be moving in the right direction. All too often I think we’re trying to dictate the direction of the pray adjusting Gods position rather than our own.

20 comments:

mullinz8 said...

I posted this way because after five tries the blog would not include the simple spacing at had formatted the piece to.

Weird.

bigsip said...

I liked it. It helped to divide it into some really distinct, coherent thoughts.

I totally agree with you, Mullins.

At the last congregation we attended in little Lincolnton, GA, we had a class on prayer.

One of the things brought up was how to pray. I said pretty much what you said. When I brought this up, the preacher pretty much said, "Well, if your child was dying, you'd pray to God to save his life."

I told Him that I would pray what I always do, "Your will be done."

That flew all over him and he pretty much thought it was crazy, but I told him it was the example Jesus gave us.

Of course, now I'd really have a hard time doing this. I didn't have a child then. Now, I do.

Praying like that would be hard to do, but praying for God to save my child or wife or whatever with a caveat of God's will (as Jesus also did) seems to be the best way to go.

However, in our hearts, like Jesus, we should want God's will over our own.

So, yes, I agree, man, but it sure is difficult no matter how you look at it.

kermitgrn said...

I noticed tha same thing when I posted. Must be a problem with blogger.

Anyway. I'd just like to throw out a few scriptures that to me says that God will change his mind. If you don't read anything else at least read the last two scriptures.

Romans 8:26
"Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

Why would we need the spirit to intercede unless he could actually plead our case before God?

James 5:14 & 16
"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much"

Mark 11:24
"Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them."

James 1:5-6
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind."

My Favorite.....
Matthew 5:7-11
"Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"

I believe God wants to hear our prayers and will give us more than we ever dreamed. But we have to ask. I'm not saying the answer will always be "yes", but God will give to us.

bigsip said...

Absolutely.

I think we can and should ask. But, I also think we should desire God's will first and foremost.

Like you said, His answer won't always be "Yes". But, if we're receiving God's answer with the right attitude and heart, it won't matter because His will is done and that's always best.

So, really, God's will being done will always be best for us, too.

Rachel said...

You've got to be careful not to use God's will as an excuse for lack of faith in prayer. He gave us free will and to me that means His plan for us is flexible. You can really get into some circular reasoning that discounts the power of prayer, ie "well I guess it just wasn't God's will" becomes very convenient. But of course you don't want to be overly bold and therefore disrespectful.

God wouldn't have said so much about prayer in His word if it couldn't change things.

kermitgrn said...

I agree with Rachel. It may be a balance that God has set as well. Something like blessings set asside or answers ready to be given if only he/she will ask me. I don't think we should expect God to always give us what we want. That would be like a spoiled child, but coming before God realizing and believing that He has the power to do something whne you ask is true faith.

bigsip said...

I don't think praying "God's will be done" is a mistake or a lack of faith, though.

I think praying that way helps us to think along lines of pleasing God.

But, I totally agree that faith and prayer go hand in hand. We should faithfully approach God.

After all, Jesus said, "ask...seek...knock..."

Brewster said...

If all you're praying is "let thy will be done" then why pray at all? Won't God's will be done without you?

I think many christians pray weakly with a backdoor for God to escape from.

"God, please be with the doctors who administer to my friend and let her be ok, if that's your will, what you want and ok with you"

The bible is very specific that our prayers can change the course of history, can effect what God does.

We should pray boldly.

This isn't to say we pray out of selfish interests. God sees through that. Or that we want to go against God's will. The thing is, there are a lot of paths for God's will.

There is no shame or wrongfullness in asking God for what you believe is right. When I have children if one of them gets very ill, your darn right I'm gonna ask, nay beg for God to save him/her. I hope that I will be understanding if God answers negatively. But God will have no doubt as to what my desire shall be.

mullinz8 said...

This has sort of come back around and that’s good because it’s a matter of what we’re asking for that matters.

Our job is to want to pray to God not because we have to but because we want to communicate with him and this should be as much as possible.

I believe that God wants to hear our prayers and that he will answer the earnest prayer but when is Gods plan already set when we’re praying for what’s going to happen anyway? I don’t think there is an answer for this because no one can know the will of God.

It was asked that we pray for Leanne. The imposition is that we should pray for her to be healed, jump up and go home with happy baby in tow. I think the more appropriate prayer is to ask for comfort for the family and that Gods will be accepted in peace and if it’s in the cards let her come home.

I think what we are supposed to do is trust in Gods will first and then seek an inner resolution for our own desires. In that, God will grant us more wisdom and understanding than we could ever hope for.

Again it’s the direction of the prayers that concerns me. We pray for healing when perhaps we should pray for understanding. We pray for forgiveness when first we should pray for guidance. We pray for security when perhaps we should pray for faith.

Josh, I’ve been in the situation you described from the class. When Caleb was born we learned the bacterial infection he had, in extreme cases, could cause death. My first prayers were for God to comfort, guide, support us through the situation and then for him to help us through the situation. After repeating this prayer I didn’t worry about the outcome I just knew God was moving the pieces in a sort of cruise control and though I didn’t know what was going to happen there was something I was supposed to “get” from all of this. I got two things from that whole thing: first my son, secondly was the action of faith resulting in the comfort of faith.

Still, God knew my boy was going to be fine already. Did someone else want to check to see how I would react, did my faith “protect” the child or was God letting things run their course as he planned for some other reason.

Jamison said...

nice post...
there is a verse in one of the letters to one of those churches that says "Give thanks in everything." ANd I try to thank God for everything. Even mistakes I have made.

However, I do think prayer can sway God. I have prayed for things to happen that I thought really would not happen. I then had faith that it would and it did happen, borderline miraculously. I feel like i swayed God in that by answering that prayer, my life would be easier to lead sin-free and it was.

Jamison said...

We are making prayer sound like sitting on Santa's lap and asking for gifts.

Prayer isnt all about asking for things.

Prayer is communicating with God.

Thank Him for people, things, blessings, talents, jobs, money, food, clothes, etc. He gave it to you ya know?

Ask Him for wisdom, for patience, for understanding, for strength.

Ask Him to help you lead your life in a Christ like way...

when youve done all this, start in with the trying-to-plead-your-case prayers...

bigsip said...

I don't think a vain, repetitive prayer of "Thy will be done" is the way to go.

Didn't mean to sound that way.

But, I do believe that there's more in a prayer of faith in trusting in God's will than there is in a prayer just listing things off for God to take care of for you.

Asking that God's will be done is an example that Christ himself followed, knowing that it was the best thing to ask for, being Himself, God.

I pray everyday for God to give me understanding, patience, love, kindness, humility, etc. I also pray for the safety of my family and all of you. But, I always pray for His will in my life as well, knowing that all things work toward good for those who love Him.

If we live in faith and pray in faith, then God's will is always best, no matter what.

mullinz8 said...

This going to skirt subjects but I almost think it has to at some point. If our prayers can change the will of God then how much stock can be placed in a God that can be swayed?

Before I get struck down, let me say again that I believe in prayer. I wonder (question) how much of our lives are set up for these situations which require prayer to basically get us to the next level of our walk with God?

I am not a bold prayers but I am a confident prayer. Perhaps my fault is that I don’t feel like I should get the final say in many situations. I pray for guidance at work and in my life and family and God knows I want the peace and happiness everyone is after but beyond that what more am I supposed to ask for?

In its essence I think it takes more faith to believe that God is smarter than the prayer and that what he’s going to provide you with all that you need no matter the situation, The prayer comes in, I think, how the prayer deciphers and uses the knowledge and abilities God has given rather than trying to figure it all out without his help.

I don’t think it’s too much to ask for safety, love, health, guidance, support or any of those things in your life. I think prayer gets turned in, as Jamison said, Santa’ lap.

Rachel said...

Give me a God who is willing to listen to those He loves and use His power to change the course of the world over a God who is bound by His vision of the future, any day.

Brewster said...

Certainly praying isn't just a grocery list of things for God to do. I've said many a prayer that wasn't much more than 'thank you'

But prayer is also asking for things. Not selfish things like I want a new car because its cool, but guidance and help in life.

I'll say it again, if God's will is going to be done, and all your ask is for God's will to be done, then why ask anything?

God's will isn't some black and white all written out plan. It's flexible and changes constantly.

Take Charles. Right now we're praying for his future and job opportunities. Let's say God's plan is for Charles not to do this new venture, but to wait for six months when a really awesome opportunity will come along.

Charles, after much prayer and thought decides to do this new business. Is he going against God's will? Is God mad at him? Has Charles just ruined God's plan for life?

I think sometimes God thinks 'ok, I'll let you have it your way because you are adament about it' and changes plans accordingly.

Does this mean God isn't in control? Is God somehow lessoned because He listens to his people? I don't think so. I think it even more shows his love for us in being able to listen to our needs and desires. It also shows his power by being able to work out the good for us in every situation.

Brewster said...

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16

I think that kind of sums it up. If we can't change God's mind, then how can prayer "availeth much?"

I will say that in all things we do in life we should be seeking God's will. We should first pray to understand God's will.

bigsip said...

Yes. I think God does hear our prayers and He answers them directly many times. But, He will accomplish His will one way or another.

Take Joseph for instance.

God sent visions to Joseph when he was young about ruling over his family. Then, Joseph's brothers plotted to kill him and sold him into slavery.

Joseph winds up in charge of his master's house and is promptly framed and thrown into prison.

Joseph is put in charge of the prison, interprets dreams, and is left there while another guy gets out.

Finally, he interprets Pharaoh's dream and is made second in command of the strongest nation in the known world!

Then, his family comes back and everything comes full-circle.

Now, throughout Joseph's life, I'm sure Joseph must have prayed many prayers in his times of trouble.

Joseph prayed and things happened, but they happened God's way and in God's time.

Had things not happened that way, the Israelites wouldn't have wound up in Egypt, there wouldn't have been a Passover, the law of Moses wouldn't have been penned, the significance of blood wouldn't have been realized, and a Son of David wouldn't have been born.

God made things happen while using people who always wanted something else, even in the NT.

Look at how he used Judas (per last discussion) or another murderer, Paul.

God's will must come about. But, the attitude with which we receive it makes all the difference.

mullinz8 said...

So God in all of his wisdom knows what we’re going to do before we do it right? God knows the end of the story, like any good author, before the book is written right?

How much of this “plan” for our lives is a pinball randomly rolling from bumper to bumper, how much is us controlling the ball with magnets and how much would you guess is the design of the machine and its layout which is systematically established to act and respond a certain way relative to its input or action?

Is it too much to consider that Gods plan to act for someone to be “miraculously, or not, healed” is just that, part of a plan?

I know that God isn’t working in a linear timeline and if I’m going to believe he created the world in a literal six days, the seventh to rest, then I happily agree that he can and will flex, bow, bend and contort to the prayers of a sincere heart and keep the rest of eternity in line too.

The gist of all this is to consider what is accomplished by prayer and what might be planned by God. Not that God does or doesn’t answer prayers but rather what might be happening could be happening for a reason.

~~~~~ change to thought ~~~~~

James 4:13 Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

I would contend that the “do this or that” would be where we should submit our prayers. That within the will of God we should pray for happiness, safety, good health, healing, direction, support, encouragement and what ever else you could think of.

Brewster said...

That's the unknown question. We can't phathom the depths of what God does.

I believe that God both knows everything throughout all time, and is very much in the moment, the now.

Things change constantly. God's plan adjusts. It wasn't Gods will for Paul to kill all those Christians. It was Paul's will. God knew Paul would be a great servant so he eventually blinded him.

The bible talks about god getting angry at people. If God knows about it 8 million years before the jews screwed up, why would he still be angry? Wouldn't eternity allow him to chill a bit? That's why I say he is invested in the now. I think he kind of forgets everything while in the now, looking at me typing this comment. And yet at the same time he knows everything.

My brain hurts now.

mullinz8 said...

It is pretty heavy stuff.

It only gets weirder it seems. Here we have chosen to believe in a being this is not only powerful but is the Alpha and Omega of creation, and is without creation its self.

Our existence was known at the beginning of time and will be felt beyond time. We have faith in a God whose mere thought formed the known universe and set in motion and guiding millions and millions of souls all while micromanaging each on down to the knowledge of how many hairs are on its body.

It’s easy to think about how fantastic and absurd all this sounds and why people don’t have a faith. In the meantime once you start your own study of the various forms of God stuff it becomes impossible to think this is all just a thrown of the cosmic dice.