Saturday, November 26, 2011

Good Intentions: Prayer

About five or six years ago, I really felt like God was impressing the necessity of prayer in my heart.  More than Praise & Worship (which was I involved in at the time).  More than Women's Bible Study (which was quickly becoming a staple in my devotional life).  In response to that pressing necessity, I began reading books on prayer.  I questioned the way prayer worked or was meant to work.  I talked about prayer with other people.  I encouraged others to seek Christ during worship services.  I did everything.

Except actually pray.

Well, that's not entirely accurate.  I prayed, but I didn't seek God the way He was encouraging me to seek Him.

And I feel like this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, because I've established that while everyone else was paying attention in Sunday school, I was learning how to best flick a booger.  (Alright, that's not entirely true, either.  But gracious jeebus, you'd think that in one area of my life I'd get it together and learn something.  But nnnnoooooo.  I'm a train wreck--one of the it's-so-crazy-you-can't-look-away numbers.)

When I look back on that time period, I mostly want to kick dirt and look at the ground.  You don't make eye contact when you're ashamed of your actions.  See, I think that was a preparation time for me.  I think God was drawing me to Him so I would develop a habit--that in every situation, my natural inclination would lean toward prayer.

Currently, my natural inclination leans toward bread.  But that's another story.

Beyond the love of white flour was the fact that I, like many other people, like for people to like me.  It's been a weird season in a lot of ways, but it's definitely tied together with this theme:  "To inoculate me from the praise of man, He baptised me in the criticism of man, until I died to control of man" (Francis Frangipane).  That admission is simple and true.  I'm not the first.  I won't be the last.  Close the book.  End of discussion.

More than anything, this "baptismal" of sorts is a reminder for me of what the "Sovereign Lord" says:  "my house will be called/ a house of prayer for all nations" (Isaiah 56:7b). 

Truthfully, prayer is a unifying theme in much of the New Testament.  (That doesn't discount the Old Testament, but it's generally a "crying out" there.)  But that prayer is just as often meant to be for the others we encounter as for ourselves:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. "
                                                                             --Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

Clearly, this passage doesn't speak to our human sensibilities of murder and pillage.  But it does speak to a God consciousness that's meant to be a part of our lives:  a consciousness that pushes us to be more like Him and desire that for others, too. 

That consciousness comes through prayer.  Must be the reason Paul admonishes us to "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12).  And like Paul says to the church at Corinth, it's true that the church's constant prayer should be "that you may be fully restored" (2 Corinthians 13:9b).

Right now, I'm praying I get this lesson so five years from now my natural inclination leans toward prayer.  Rest assured, I would be a different person if I had dedicated myself to God's drawing the same number of years in the past.  I'm praying for a God consciousness--for myself and others. 

"Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”                                                --Isaiah 30:20-21 (NIV)

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