Friday, January 31, 2014

Praying Prayers

"regard the prayer which Your servant 
is praying before You today"
1 Kings 8:28

I had another session of pondering, recently, that was based on the collision of two separate thoughts, from different sources, entering my head at roughly the same time. 

Sort of like those old Reese's peanut butter cup commercials, where the chocolate and peanut butter came together accidentally, and the result was good. 

I love it when that happens.  'Cause I love pondering.  And wondering.  And musing and contemplating and meditating and ruminating and chocolate and peanut butter.  All good.

The first, was a conversation with my sister.  We were talking about prayer, and she asked me my opinion on a specific aspect of prayer that was troubling her, to wit:  how to pray for everything.  Or, how to cover in prayer all the things she thinks of that need prayer.

It's a good question.  Sometimes that's a hard aspect of prayer: the tendency of the mind to wander to things that each prayer request reminds you of.  Like, if I prayed for my daughter when she was taking the practice SAT test, then I might think, "Well, I should pray for all those other kids taking it, too."  And then I might start thinking about the college she'll end up at, and pray about wisdom in that decision, when the time comes, and then think I should pray about her eventual roommate, and her eventual boyfriend and her eventual best friend and her eventual best friend's parents, 'cuz what if she enjoys visiting them for dinner sometimes, they might have some influence on her life and do they go to church and oh, will she have any trouble going to church when she's in college if that's not near here and where will she be and will it snow there andI'dbetterprayforherdrivingcuzthatcanbetricky foragirlwhogrewupinaplacewhereitneversnows....

*pant, pant*

So I tried to put my sister at ease, because I think she was a little concerned about this.  You see, she's an oldest child, and a lot bit of a Type A personality, so it can be difficult for her to do anything to less than whatever standard she thinks is optimal. 

And then a few weeks ago I read this, from a friend of mine who puts out a monthly prayer calendar for worldwide ministry in which she's involved:  "Once again this month I was gripped by the audacity of fitting prayer and praise requests for children and adults worldwide, into the space of a box on a calendar that holds, at most, 215 letters and spaces.  What if, in our limited vision, we are asking wrongly?"

Now, I don't know if this friend of mine is a Type A oldest child, but that's much the same worry that my sister was having. 

Truthfully, this is not something I've ever worried about.  I believe that our prayers are precious to Him, even when poorly spoken.   In Revelation 5:8, John describes in his vision of heaven, twenty-four elders, who fell down before the Lamb, "each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."  Isn't that awesome?

So I don't worry about the timing of my prayers... I just found out that a long-lost friend of mine had heart surgery a few years ago.  We weren't in touch at the time, so I didn't know, and wasn't praying.  But as soon as I heard, I automatically prayed, counting on God to apply those prayers retroactively.  After all, He's outside of time and space, so why couldn't He?  And why wouldn't He?

And I don't worry about the length of my prayers... Sometimes I just say a name in my mind, or picture a person or a situation.  He knows.  He doesn't need details.  On the other hand, sometimes my mind wanders uncontrollably, from prayers to my grocery list, and back again.  I know I never lose Him.  He never tunes me out. 

And I don't worry about the wording of my prayers... Sometimes, whether praying out loud in a group, or in my own head, my words get jumbled or won't come.  I'm too overwhelmed, too overwrought, too tired, too whatever.  But Romans 8:26 says, "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."

No, there's no such thing as a perfect prayer.  But I trust Him to take what I offer, and make it perfect.

~ "Lord, teach us to pray" ~
Luke 11:1

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