Monday, June 7, 2010

Prayer - Leveraging the Kingdom and Talking to God

I confess, for many years I thought prayer was throwing thoughts and hopes into the supernatural realms with no way of knowing how it would be received, or even if it would be received, in Heaven, In AA they told me to only pray of the knowledge of His will. In the evangelical church they told me that everything I needed to know about His will was in the Bible.

Prayer was sort of a religious thing to do in hopes of receiving a hard to get blessing. Hopefully, this week; your Kingdom Bloggers will shed some light on how, and why they pray.

When I was a kid I used to wish for stuff - a new bike, dad would quit drinking, that I would get past "Go" in Monopoly, Linda would ask me to dance instead of me asking her at the 8th grade hop - stuff like that. It seems like I was expressing my hopes for luck. And truthfully, most of it didn't work out. I used the same mentality once I got saved, wrapping my prayers to my Heavenly Father with or "Lord" and ending them, "in Jesus' name." If I was really religious, I might say "Lord God." The results were not much better than the wishes of my youth.

Early on I was washed to and fro by life.When things were going good I was blessed. And when they weren't, I was cursed. Prayer didn't seem to change much. I honestly didn't know much about the Bible, but I was reading it. I read it a lot in fact. I didn't know a lot about prayer, but I did listen to guys pray on the retreats. Of course we ended every AA meeting with the Lord's prayer.

In 1982 I read a book entitled, Nine o'Clock in the Morning. I read about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the power that was supposed to be in it. I asked the Anglican Priest at my church, and he smiled. We went to the altar to ask for this phenomenon of the Christian faith. Wow, that changed a lot of things.

It seemed that I could hear God better - I just seemed to know things. I was more passionate in worship services. The Bible made a lot more sense to me, and oh, I could really pray with a new found fervency! This fire seemed unquenchable.

I remember going to my first - we'll call it what is was - Charismatic prayer meeting. It was bunch of Episcopalians (WASPs if you are my age, and not too PC) sitting on the floor in the fellowship hall chattering away in unknown languages. Crazy, I know - but stay with me. They were praying for a little guy about 4-years-old with a club foot. He got healed that night. On another occasion, there was a guy, a big biker type fellow there with the WASPs. He had a Devil tattoo on his arm. That night, during more of this prayer, it was gone! Completely gone!

I keep telling myself, prayer has power.

I thought I would try out this prayer thing-a-ma-bob. There was a gal I knew in AA, and one evening we were smoking cigarettes, and she was coughing up a storm - it was bronchitis. I asked God to heal her. It was gone right then and there. Her eyes were as big as the tires on a monster truck - mine too. She stopped smoking too. You know, I was thinking, there is something to this prayer. I prayed up a storm - I got right in the devil's face - I did. HERE is much more on that story.

I keep telling myself, prayer needs God's direction.

I prayed and prayed and prayed - even when I didn't have the words - I prayed. But the fire died down, things got tough, and I checked out for a while. Prayer without a growing relationship is like leaving a tape playing for your family to listen to over and over. It's all very one-sided.

I keep telling myself, prayers are not so we can get God to do a parlor trick, they are so that we can advance the Kingdom of God.

Some years later, I was having sort of a personal revival. I went to meeting in New Haven,CT a few hundred miles from my home. There was a guy there praying for folks. He came to me and said. I see that you don't pray like you used to. If you'll pray, you'll see miracles, and be happy. I knew what He was talking about.

I learned: Prayer is like breathing for the Christian. Sometimes it is relaxed and easy, other times we are huffing and puffing to make it one more step. But we never stop.

So I began prayer walking. I walked th beach, the mall, the street and prayed. I built up my spirit and I began to pray about situation that seemed impossible, and God would answer. I began to hear his voice more and more. So I prayed more and more. I can't explain, but my faith began to explode. I would walk up to folks and know what to pray for - then God would do it. There was a blind man selling pencils on Main St., could I pray for him and see him healed? I didn't do it. There was a drug addict that died in the parking lot of my building, I could have prayed for him to be raised from the dead? I didn't even try. I bet Thomas would have.

I learned: Prayer takes faith which I didn't always have.

I did became more and more confidant. I studied healing, and prophesy, and the spiritual gifts and I prayed for people - lots of people. Things didn't happen every time, but they did happen a lot of the time. I was getting quite good results working the ministry lines at church and on mission trips. Honestly, I was more amazed than those receiving the ministry.

I keep telling myself, God can use even a screwed up guy like me - one with many faults, average intelligence and an impetuous nature.

When I went to Norway, I had 32 folks praying for me daily! It is no wonder so much amazing stuff happened!

My own prayers for myself were a lot tougher. I thought I knew how I wanted things to turn out.  I prayed for knowledge, wisdom, forgiveness, faith, relief from my shame and for my family and friends. It was frustrating getting into a groove with God. Honestly, as learned to hear God, and be obedient, to pray things through, I started to see the situation in my life differently. The Lord was gracious as He told me what car to buy, what house to live in, where to go to church, what to say to my kids. I prayed for answers, and I got them.

A real prayer life is not about the amount of prayers, but the quality of those prayers based on the knowledge of God's will. I pray for His will a lot, but I always press God for details before making a decision.

I have had the pleasure to see my kids learn the same lessons, to trust God, and expect Him to answer. They have more faith than I do most of the time.

One summer day were at the beach near our house.The girls were 5 and 8 at the time. A young man was playing Frisbee and disappeared into the lake. Everyone was in a panic, and some of the kids playing the game found him unconscious beneath the surface; dragging him onto the lake shore screaming and yelling..There was a nurse and she started to give him mouth to mouth, but nothing. My oldest simply walked over and laid hands on his foot, and prayed for life. To everyone's amazement, mine included, he coughed up water, and actually sat up.

I keep telling myself, sometimes I think we just need to pray less,with more faith.

How do you pray?


Linda Maynard said...

Always enjoy reading your thoughts.
Prayer for me is like a dialogue with a friend.
Sometimes it is audible and some times, because of my relationship with them ( God,), I feel He hears the deep desires of my heart without lots of words of explanation.
I know I sometimes pray with selfish motives and ideas of how I want things to go. I think it is part of the process.
I do love to pray for others and their needs.
I also have prayed in the "secret language" ( tongues) and that type of prayer helps when I honestly do not know how to pray for a person or situation. My human words seem to be inadequate at those times. I've prayed with power and faith and even prayed with little faith and seen answers and miracles too.
I guess for me, it boils down to the Lord seeing my heart and my desire to pray without ceasing.

photogr said...

In prayers, I have found the Lord to grant some and sometimes he doesn't. Prayer request on a personal level other than medical, seems to be the ones that go ignored. I can live with that.

The ones that floored me ( actually sacred me) is when I am praying for members in my particular community on health and personal issues, He seems to grant those prayer request to the point of healing those that are ill most of the time.

I have found in prayers for others, it takes a few times praying to get results but none the less, He does heal or console those afflicted. Being one rather reluctant to just pray for others or my self, I view this possiility in a guarded manner.

Do I have the gift of healing? I don't think so. Do I have any gifts from God's grace? No. I don't feel worthy to have such an honor. Maybe some day but not now.

What I do desire is to see ones in action that can heal, prophesy, or speak in tongues before I am convinced ( doubting Thomas here).

Tracy said...

In response to your question, "how do you pray", I don't have just one answer. It seems for me like the Holy Spirit leads me differently at different times.

Sometimes I feel led in a public setting to pray something for someone and God works as I'm obedient. Sometimes I just pray thanks to God throughout the day for blessings, or when I'm choosing to believe that He's working out challenging circumstances for my good. My husband John made the observation recently that He's noticed God giving a lot more "yes" answers to his prayers lately and John told me that he thinks it's because these days His prayers are more in line with God's will verses the selfish prayers he used to pray.

As I look at passages such as Ephesians 6:12, I'm convinced that there is a spiritual realm. I think that prayer affects the spiritual realm in a way that then brings about changes in the physical realm. That's part of why I just keep on praying for important things that I know are God's heart as well as my desires (things like someone's salvation, someone's deliverance from an addiction, restoration in relationships, etc.)even when I do not see things changing as soon as I want them to.

Tony C said...

When I was asked to lead prayer in church the first time, I found myself more focused on how I was praying and not what I was praying. I grew to realize that praying aloud is no different than praying in my quite's me talking to my Abba Father.

Needless to say, I'm much less formal about it today.