Saturday, April 03, 2010

Prayer Doesn't Work

A friend and I frequent Barnes & Noble about once a month with what we call "B&N Nights." We go there, browse the aisles for about 25 minutes, and then eventually find ourselves sitting with a stack of books and a couple of magazines in the cafe, sipping Starbucks and chatting or flipping through the pages of our literature.

I love these nights. There is something so tangibly wonderful about a bookstore. I love the idea of book in hand, coffee in other, and aisles and aisles of endless words on paper.

On one particular B&N evening last November, a book caught my eye. I have to admit, it wasn't the title so much as it was the colorful spine. I picked it up and it read, "Six Prayers God Always Answers."

Now the colorful cover took a backseat to the title. I would be traveling to Texas that next weekend in a car, and so I knew I would have plenty of time to read. I made the purchase.

The fact that I just finished reading it last week doesn't back up this statement very well: I loved it and found it to be so very interesting. Then I should have finished it sooner, eh? Especially during those 24 hours I spent in the car to and from Texas. Or if not then, during the next several hours I spent in a van from Illinois to Georgia and back. And at the very least, if not then, then on the 16 hour flight to and from Africa this past January.

None of the above. I tend to be ADD when I read books. I love to read, but it's really hard for me to read for long periods of time, no matter how good the book. Furthermore, I treat books as I do situations in my life. It goes along with my personality type of ENFP... I get bored of one thing quickly and move onto another. It doesn't mean I won't come back. It just means I can't stay there for long periods of time. In this way, new projects bud at any time, and several projects sit unfinished. As I have gotten older, I find that I am better about sticking with one thing to completion. But as for this book, it took me about 4-5 months to finish it. In fact, the other day my friend asked me, "How many books do you read at a time?"

It was a legit question. Never just one. In fact, currently I am in 3 different bible studies and until recently was reading 2-3 books at a time, as well. I like variety.

Anyway, this particular book was one that I forgot how much I truly enjoyed until I would start reading it again. It really made me think, and often times made me chuckle nervously as chapters would come to a close and would give me a reality check on my own life.

The very first chapter is entitled, "Prayer Doesn't Work."

The whole book is like this. It almost gives you a double take. What? Prayer Doesn't Work? The words would beg you to read more, posing controversial phrases and statements that made you hope would end in a truthful conclusion. And although sometimes I was doubtful, it always did.

The first words of the book read, "Prayer doesn't work. God does. We often get that confused, don't we?"

It's true. To say "prayer doesn't work" almost seems preposterous until you think about what that actually means. Prayer can't work without God. We pray to God, the One who makes everything work. So at the end of the day, no, prayer doesn't work. God does. But we pray TO God.

I was recently reading in my Martha & Mary bible study book, and a story there struck me. The story talked about our relationship with God and how we spend time with Him. In the story, it outlined it as a man who would go to a quiet, secluded den every morning and spend 20 minutes there with Jesus (who in this story, was in human form). He would sit and talk with Him, and they would both enjoy that time together. As days went on, the man really liked being able to go and talk with Jesus one on one, share his problems, and have someone there to support him.

However, the man became busy, and every once in awhile would miss a morning of this time with Jesus. One week, his life had gotten so busy that he forgot to go at all. As he was passing the door to the den, he noticed Jesus was still in there at the time they usually met. The man peeked his head inside the door.

"You're still here?" he asked.

"Yes," Jesus replied, "I am. I am here every morning."

"Oh," the man replied. "I didn't realize you still came if I didn't show up."

"You see, the problem with you is that you see this time as a step to your own spiritual growth," Jesus told him, "But what you don't realize is that I also enjoy this time with you."

Maybe that doesn't speak to some of you as it did to me. It may even seem painfully obvious. But to me, it was a real eye-opener. Not that I don't think the Lord enjoys spending time with me, but that I may not see it from the right perspective. I often see my time with the Lord as "an aid to my own spiritual progress." And, it is that. But it's also so much more. It's a relationship builder. If I am supposed to imitate Christ and know Truth, how can I do that without investing in a relationship with the One who will show me how? And a relationship isn't just one-sided. It's not just me + an Almighty God up on His throne, some untouchable, distant, all-powerful being that I send a request to every now and again and memorize verses about. It is a beautiful, special relationship that is formed between myself and the Lord Jesus Christ, and it's not just for my enjoyment only. He enjoys time with me, too. He enjoys time with all of His children. After all, He created us, each and every one unique. Just as a father loves to spend time with each of his own earthly children, why would my God not enjoy spending time with me?

Sometimes, I guess it's just hard for me to grasp. When I think about God enjoying that time as much as I do, it blows my mind. Really? And, as I say, it's not rocket science. Of course He loves and cherishes that time. Yet He doesn't need us. He doesn't need any of us. But He desires our closeness and our relationship. He wants it. He is jealous for it. In fact, I was just reading in the Bible the other day a metaphor describing that our love for Christ should be just like the love we reserve for that one and only spouse in our life. Pure, undefiled, and only directed to one person: and in this case, that is Christ. So while God is God and He could do away with all of us and this entire Universe with the snap of His fingers if he wanted, He still cherishes us and our time, and the relationship we build with Him.

So, we can pray all we want, but ultimately, it's not prayer that will change anything. It's God who will. Yet it's through that avenue of prayer, the requests we make to God, and the relationship we build because of prayer that induces God to work.

May we continue to fervently pray in pursuit of an amazing relationship with God.

Love you all!


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