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52 Responses

  1. nomans says:

    God answers prayer. The key is asking according to His will…
    The rub comes from our false notion that His will is one of ease or comfort.
    It never has been, not will it ever be.

    I had people telling me while i didn’t eat so my children could that Gods children would never beg bread.
    It was like salt in a wound every time.

  2. nomans says:

    And i pray for the people i love, believing that God could in an instant change the weather of their circumstances. I also lift up the cup of their lives, their portion, and say not my will but Yours be done

  3. I’ve had too many answered prayers to doubt it anymore.
    I am sorry that you haven’t experienced the same.

  4. Sarah says:

    I just finished reading through Job with the boys. We’ve talked a lot about prayer, and a lot about the fact that there will be things in our lives that we simply will not understand.

    We still pray. We still hope. We still believe that God is sovereign and that He is good.

    Some days that helps immensely, and some days it helps a little.

    Some days God seems to be so very far away, and not much more than just a story. There are days that my anger and my pride are so loud that I simply can’t hear anything beyond them. God seems to not be able, or not want, to push past.

    Then there are some days where Maddie will smile and it will completely fill me with wonder and with joy and with heartache for a home where she will never feel any fear or hurt or pain.

    And that ache reminds me that I was made for something more…that there is something broken in my core and I can feel that break. I can feel that misalignment and it skews everything.

    I look at that brokenness, that “wrongness” and I fear. I am aware that there are those who have given themselves over to the brokenness and rejoice in and revel in it to the point that they would delight in destroying my children for their pleasure. I am aware that there are those who would delight in taking my safety and tearing it apart.

    I am aware that there are those whose brokenness screams louder than the mark of the maker on them…and I can be consumed by fear and by anger and by anxiety. The brokenness of the world can be a terrifying thing.

    That brokenness, however, can lead to prayer. Because when I come to the point of being overwhelmed by the dangers I realize that I cannot navigate the brokenness of this world in my own strength.

    That prayer is not simply a feeling or an expression of thought….it is a lifeline to a living God. As you said, it is a testament that I believe in Him and I care.

    And my prayers are not just mine. They are mixed with the prayers that I have heard prayed over me by my pastor’s wife each Sunday morning. They are mixed with the prayers I have read from countless saints over the years that I have read in their stories. They are mixed with the prayers of simplicity from my children. They are mixed with the prayers of the wise that I have been able to be around and hear.

    My prayers fill my imagination with vision of what could be, and are sparked by the Holy Spirit…that imagination is fueled by the Creator. My prayers are marked by hope because the fulfillment of them does not rest in my abilities, but in the reality of a Redeeming God. My prayers are marked by faith because they rest in the testimony of countless saints who, although not spared suffering always, have told that God has been present even when things have been confusing.

    My prayers are not as strong as I would like. They are not as imaginative as I would like. They are not as hopeful as I would like, and my faith often is very small and I wonder if God waits for me to grasp at larger things when I touch His hem.

    My children have expanded my prayers simply by their existence. This year I hope to grow in prayer…simply by the discipline of reading prayers and by the discipline of turning my face toward God.

    I pray for you, Michael, and for many here. I pray to speak the affirmation that I believe, along with you.

  5. Em says:

    nomans and Sarah – what a privilege to read your affirmations here – i feel like Sarah with her little Maddie and just want to hedge you both in with vigilant, protective angels – thank you for such blessed words

  6. catherine says:

    Amen Sarah.

  7. J.U. says:

    The book of Job. I’m still struggling to understand that one. I don’t know if I ever will, and it will be the first question I ask upon arrival in Heaven. Where’s Job? I’ve got some questions for him.

    Answer to prayers is a mystery, perhaps more profound than the mystery of the Trinity. Even the great Apostle Paul prayed for relief that was not forthcoming. What is the lesson there?

    I often consider answer to prayers in the same manner as miracles. I former Pastor told me about his experiences in India. He was convinced that miracles occur regularly, but not necessarily in the United States. He didn’t know why, but he suspected it had to do with the level of faith and dependance in third world countries. He thought our live here in the US were too distracted.

    I fear that often prayers are just substitutes for actual care when we learn that others are in need. It is easy to pray for them. It is much harder to actually do something for them.

    Like I said, I don’t know. It is a mystery to me.

  8. J.U. says:

    I remember a story I was told once about a missionary in Africa. Although we think of Africa as very hot, he said the nights can be quite cold and that they were much in need of blankets when a mother with a new born baby arrived. The baby was suffering from the cold and there were no blankets.

    The missionary didn’t know what to do, but the children all said that we must pray. So they did. The next morning a jeep arrived with a package from the US. All the children cried out to open the package as it must be an answer to the prayer. The missionary was skeptical, but he did open the package.

    It contained blankets. The baby was save. The faith of children again demonstrated, even in the faltering faith of the missionary.

    Made a good story. I assume it was second or third hand. Maybe true. Maybe not. I know the speaker thought it was a true story describing an answer to prayer. As you say, Michael, make your own application.

  9. Em says:

    i wonder if our closet prayers aren’t similar to the intimacy that one has with one’s spouse … can we really tell another person how to do either?
    i’m not sure that i can defend that statement with Bible verses and i do use and meditate on the Our Father to overcome my self absorbed thinking … i don’t like to think about how much of my time before the Lord is used asking for relief from what oppresses (& destroys) my life (& others’), rather than asking for the wisdom and strength to go through what the devil is throwing at me …
    even as a Believer who has passed from death into life by God’s redemption, getting beyond Job 13 seems to be taking me my whole lifetime 😐

  10. filbertz says:

    I’ve enjoyed Michael’s post and the comments so far. They provide an honest range of experience on this widely debatable topic. I will only say that I have gone through much of Michael’s wrestling with the topic and come to similar conclusions. Prayer is personal and conversational with me, reflective of my commitment to relationship with a God who desires relationship. It doesn’t involve “discipline” or closets, or appointed times, lists, formulae, or methodologies–because the most successful relationships I enjoy don’t revolve around those types of efforts. I want God to speak as He will, when He will, if He will. I hope to be attentive and responsive in those times and opportunities. In my experience, He speaks through other means, that is, indirectly, far more frequently. For others, including Mueller cited above, I don’t begrudge them their experiences, but don’t feel badly that mine don’t mirror theirs.

  11. jlo says:

    Prayer is a funny thing. When I practiced the discipline of prayer time as described by my tribe, it was rarely productive for me. Though there are seasons when it is needed.

    My most productive prayer time is spent while I clean or garden. As I busy my hands it allows my thoughts to focus on God so that I can hear His voice.

    I’ve had many prayers answered, and many left unanswered. I question why some and not others, but ultimately have to trust in the Lord for the whys.

  12. Em says:

    filbertz point is well taken about the personal aspect of praying, i think – it must be personal to be valid, i think – dunno –
    for me, i must close out the world and concentrate on God’s reality because i am that double minded man (generic use of ‘man’) of James 1

  13. Ixtlan says:

    I have similar experiences. Sometimes I think I didn’t persevere long enough, other times I think I asked for the wrong things. And your comment got me thinking about a recent situation in my own life. I’m not directing this at you, I think though, it is something for us all to consider.

    I had a friend recently left our church. He had issues with the pastor. He prayed that God would change his mind about some things. When that didn’t happen, he interpreted the lack of change in his own mind as God telling him to leave. Such stupidity! We flaunt our free will in the way we live our lives and then expect God to treat us like robots in some of our prayer requests. And when He doesn’t super-naturally change our mind, well, it must be God’s will to bail. He never considered that the focus of his prayer should have been how God might glorify Himself in the midst of difficulty and personal conflict. There was never an ounce of “Thy will be done”, it was all about fix this uncomfortable situation for me…..

  14. Em says:

    i don’t know if i can express this correctly, but i’m going to try …
    most of us, who are Believers, have grasped at life’s opportunities using our God as an anchor (and that’s not bad IMHO), but we haven’t really been centered in Him (using John the Baptist as the perfect model of that way) … much of my asking God to fix, to intervene with miraculous relief, the life i’m living is asking Him to fix what wasn’t centered in His will to begin with – that’s just fact, not failure and it doesn’t make our lives in Christ less valid, it just means that He may not choose to fix what we’ve made … but grace is a wonder and Faith is a force of its own, so who knows … we, or someone praying for us, may just be centered – prayer and hope always must go together …
    one thing i do know, the end is joyful

  15. Nonnie says:

    Prayer is not always answered the way I would like it to be…but I have learned that I can trust in Him. I can cry, sigh, read others’ prayers, read His promises, pray prayers from the Bible, mumble, groan and just weep…..but regardless of the way my prayer is expressed, I know He hears and cares…..I know I can trust in God to accept those prayers and work all things together for good….maybe not the way I want it to be…but I know that one day I will understand. So for now, I pray and I ask others to pray with me….. and I hope….I cast my cares upon the One who cares for me and those I care for. All the while, I see through a glass darkly….. and often I just don’t understand, but through the tears, I hope.

  16. jlo says:

    lxtlan, while the word you gave is good for all of us to consider, I think it was a word that God had for me specifically. It dove tails into a conversation I had with a trusted saint just yesterday. I have spent much time in prayer after my world was upended six months ago, I have yet to hear a clear answer on how to proceed, so I continue to wait on the Lord. My greatest strength at this point is that through my trial the Lord will be glorified.

    I know what I want to do, I know what I am biblically able to do, I do not yet know what God would have me do. So I wait, seeking wisdom, so I wait…….

  17. Em says:

    seeing undeniable, supernatural miracles in prayer? i’m here to tell you that they do happen – i’ve been there, feeling like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights (sadly)
    as everyone is expressing here in one way or another, the prayer of the saints (us) IS a force – just where it will break through into this diabolic cosmos only God, Himself ordains

  18. Em says:

    let me add a post script, hesitantly because of the mystery and the possibility for abuse, fasting increases the power of (some) prayer …

  19. covered says:

    Here’s something that find myself praying often, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief”

  20. Sarah says:

    I read the biography on Bonhoeffer to finish out last year. A powerful book in many ways, but one of the comments that recurred and really struck me was how people were impressed with how Bonhoeffer prayed…not impressed in the popular sense, but impressed as in it was pressed into them…because he prayed with a clear impression that God heard. In the midst of all the suffering, all the confusion, all the turmoil that he faced in those tremendous years, he prayed with a confidence and a clarity that God listened. That was his testimony right up to the last day.

    I think, and this is something that has been on my heart for years, that we need to teach people to pray. Not classes or books or seminars, but we need those who are comfortable in prayer to pray before the congregation. Our pastor’s wife prays for between 10 and 15 minutes at the beginning of the service. She prays for the members of the congregation, by name, by need and with intention and eloquence. What is striking is she does not cause others to feel less because they do not pray with the same eloquence…there is a humility and a childlikeness in her prayers that disarms. She is teaching.

    We need pray-ers in our midst to teach us to pray. I remember being stunned when I was 20 and was asked by a woman in her 30’s to teach her how to pray. I invited her to a prayer group that met at our house…actually, a group of friends who I ate pizza with and then we would talk and pray. We invited her into our midst and she listened and she began to pray.

    I agree wholeheartedly that prayer is an individual task and is colored by so many things…our experiences, our theology, our situation. We falter around by ourselves often because we are embarrassed to ask for “help” in learning to pray…but we need to have those in our midst who are called to and comfortable with prayer…to pray. In front of us. To teach us.

    It is good to talk about and to share our experiences…and to spur each other on, and to encourage…but ultimately we learn prayer by praying.

  21. Nonnie says:

    Amen to that prayer, Covered….that, and “Lord, Your will be done.” Those are 2 prayers I pray a lot. I have seen wondrous answers to prayer…..often times more than I ever hoped for.

  22. covered says:

    Nonnie I agree, “Lord, Your will be done” Probably the most important prayer of all.

  23. Alex says:

    covered said, ““Lord I believe, help my unbelief”” Yep, amen.

    and, “Lord, thy will be done” Yep, amen.

    I add: God have mercy on me a sinner and have mercy on my loved ones.

    I think in many areas prayer is synergistic or action-oriented. We can pray all we want for water and wait for it to rain…or we can pray and then dig a well and thank God for the ability and knowledge to know how to do it.

    I’m very much a non-mystical type in most areas…though I think God will sometimes act in a more mystical manner when we give up trying to do it on our own, which is a weird paradox. And, truth be told, most of the time, if God is answering a prayer, the answer seems to be “no” and “deal with it”…yet many things go well or go different than we wanted, but usually net/net they end up OK…until they don’t.

    Seems to be a randomness to things in reality…though many believe God is directly answering every single prayers, whim, desire, circumstance etc etc. Maybe He does, maybe He doesn’t…dunno for sure. Doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence to support it unless the answer “no” is an answer b/c most prayers don’t seem to get answered in the affirmative, even for the most ardent prayer warriors…unless the prayers are generic and the bar is really low…like “I pray he gets a job”…very high odds of probability eventually…or “I pray she recovers from the flu”…very high odds of probability.

    However, “I pray the pastor confesses and repents”…very low odds of probability and probably would be some sort of mystical event.

  24. I know that this is a moment many have prayed for, so use this as evidence of answered prayer.
    Alex said “I’m very much a non-mystical type in most areas…”

    I agree with him – that pretty well describes me.

  25. Em says:

    i, myself, think that if we court “mystical” we will be fooled … that is very different from the simplicity of belief displayed by Sarah’s pastor’s wife, is it not?

  26. Alex says:

    MLD, why are you attacking me? Why do you stalk me so? I think you’re toxic. I can’t even post a comment w/o you attacking me 😉

  27. Alex says:

    MLD said, “I agree with him – that pretty well describes me.”

    I actually think that you and I are a lot alike…except for the brains, the good looks and the muscles. Other than that, we’re practically twins 🙂

  28. rick says:

    I have read the posts of you all and I am wondering why you want to learn how to pray or to pray better? What is behind this desire? Do you think that if you hit upon the perfect prayer, God will be compelled to answer? In this desire to do prayer properly is there also the desire to know God’s will for the person or the situation of which you pray?

  29. Em says:

    rick, FWIW, i appreciate that you waded through all the comments (mine included?), but your conclusion and question suggests that you might benefit from a reread 😐

  30. My difficulty in praying is that prayer is a mere communication with God. I have nothing in common with God and there is nothing I can bring up, or ask for, that He is not already aware of.

    The only thing I can think of when I pray,( that I can consider as something I have worth saying to Him), is: “I am nothing, You are everything, there is no good in me, You are nothing but good, thank You for the things You provide me with, and Praise You because You deserve to be Praised forever and ever, whether You do what I consider to be good things for me or not.”

    This prayer gets embarrassingly repetitious but I cannot say it enough.

  31. Sarah says:

    Em…the mystical can be tricky. I am always aware of “the heart being deceitful” and am cautious of being caught up in trying to manipulate an emotion.

    That said, there is some great testimony and I have had some moments where I felt a mystical connection to God which I believe was blessed by and created by the Holy Spirit.

    Still…that is tricky ground to cover in a forum like this. I am thankful for the simplicity of Kim’s prayers at church and her constant weaving of wonder and beauty into the prayer.

    I’d love to hear Babylon’s Dread speak to this…

  32. Sarah says:

    Paul…I went through long seasons where I could not say anything. I could simply turn my face toward God and be still in his presence.

    We are commanded to pray, and sometimes our words are simple or frail or doubt-filled…but we are turning our attention to God even in those moments. The Spirit is working even in those moments in some way we may never understand, but I do not think God wearies of our repetition when it is sincere.

  33. My most-oft prayed prayer: “Lord, I don’t even know what to say right now.”

  34. Alex says:

    rick, I think I understand what you’re saying. I haven never bought into the ‘you have to learn how to pray’ thing…though others will point to scripture where Jesus taught folks “how” to pray etc.

    For me, I relate very much to what CK just said. Most of the time it’s very conversational and informal and honest. Most of the time it’s, “God, I have no idea what to do or why or how. I’m sure this could really suck, but your will be done and I’ll go with my gut”

  35. “God, I have no idea what to do or why or how. I’m sure this could really suck, but your will be done and I’ll go with my gut”

    Alex, have you been reading my prayer journal again?!! I’ve gotta put a lock on that thing.

  36. PP Vet says:

    We sat in the van outside the testing center and prayed for three hours as our daughter took the ACT. For three hours we asked God to make her brain work, help her think clearly. We kept asking.

    She wanted a scholarship, and her test scores had never been good enough.

    This time, though, she made it, just barely, the minimum score for the scholarship.

  37. not one comment, that i’d disagree with here … prayer is as simple as a mind and heart turned toward Him … filters don’t work with Him, but we even fool ourselves … grace and mercy, Lord … You know

  38. Alex says:

    CK, LOL 🙂

  39. David sloane says:

    When it comes to prayer, it is We who set
    the pace.ForJesus has said, “be it unto you according toYour faith.

  40. nomans says:

    Our faith is not God. God is God. a few months back i pleaded with God to heal my sweet cat who was at deaths door. I believed like a child. God had mercy on that beloved creature and spared him.
    Night before last i pleaded God to make that same cats death quick as he lay in my arms panicking for breath. I believed the same…
    No even more that he would hear my cries for mercy. Instead, he died a horrific, violent painful death, and his suffering was stretched out over several hours. Why wouldn’t God simply shorten his suffering? What would it hurt Heaven?

    The true faith wasn’t found in the way i believed and petitioned God for a peaceful death, the true faith comes when He says “no”, for reasons i could never understand and i respond

    God, You are only ever good.

  41. nomans says:

    And i will have a real problem if someone leads that our prayers aren’t being heard because we aren’t believing hard enough.

    If these walls could speak…
    Meaning to say, if you only knew the stories represented among the precious saints who frequent these cyber rooms

  42. I had a glitch in my praying for a while. Couldn’t grasp the concept of praying to a socereign God. Got past that for the most part. Now I pray not only for my fiends, my own faith, but also, so erimes, for my enemies. Changes my attitude roward,them when I do

    Re the Job thing. Even though I am a pastor, i told myself I would never teach the book of Job. It never fully resolves itself. Yes, he gets his health back, land and cattle but he never got his children back. Job is a righteous man, but God doesn’t seem to treat his people very well in Job. He doesn’t even give him an explanation for all the crap that happened to him

    But my attitude toward the book changed when I was diagnosed with cancer. I wanted to know why I had the disease. It would have made the surgeries a lot easier if I knew there was a reason for the cancer. But thru Job I learned that some times crap happens even to the righteous and, like Job, we will never know why. But in those times we trust that God is soveign and he is good. Thats the point of Job. When there is no explanation for some harsh thing, God is sobereign, but he is good. When we are in heaven, then we will understand

  43. Nonnie says:

    Steve in your 43 you said:
    “But thru Job I learned that some times crap happens even to the righteous and, like Job, we will never know why. But in those times we trust that God is sovereign and he is good. Thats the point of Job. When there is no explanation for some harsh thing, God is sovereign, but he is good. When we are in heaven, then we will understand.”

    Thank you….I’m sitting here with tears streaming down my face. Thank you.

  44. Reuben says:

    I have no idea why exactly, but I felt the need to turn off the radio while driving to work this past week. I decided to pray instead. There is a ton of stuff on my mind. It is extremely heavy.

    Friday morning, I prayed for something stupid. I prayed that a job that was left to me would be taken from me, specifically, given back to the person who pawned it off on me. I was fearful of this job. I absolutely did not want to do it.

    Later on that day, I got a call from the office asking me if I had the parts for that job. I went flush, because it meant I was finally scheduled to go do the job that I absolutely did not want to do. But the question on the phone was followed by an explanation, that I was to return the parts to the guy who was initially responsible for the job, and he would complete it.

    I prayed a ton of really important things driving in my van this past week. That request was not one of them. It was a silly request, but for whatever reason, it was answered down to the last detail.

  45. Nonnie says:

    Rubes, that is a wonderful testimony of God doing more than we could ask or pray.

  46. Nonnie….thats awesome!

  47. Blessed by just reading Steve and Reuben’s testimonies.Thanks guys!

  48. Alex,
    “and not some appeal to grammar to generalize your statement and change the meaning.”

    Sorry to hear that your grammar deficiency is greater than I thought. The plural you is used in the English language as much as the singular.

  49. Scott says:

    I see prayer a little differently.

    There’s the prayer of faith that believes and grabs onto an answer because it knows God’s will and is willing to step out in bold faith and ask and believe and then expect it to happen. I’ve seen this many, many times result in wonderful answers to prayer.

    Then there’s the other kind of prayer which, to me, is praying FOR the faith to believe because much as I want to ask God for this or that I do not have the faith to believe He will provide or I don’t know His will well enough to know how He might answer.

    For me, those are the only kinds of prayer. Faith pleases God, but so does honestly, which is why I am often left telling Him how much I don’t believe and asking Him to build my faith.

    If I pray in doubt, I seldom get an answer, although when I was a younger Christian sometimes God would answer those prayers and I think He did it to encourage me.

  50. Em says:

    i think i said earlier up the thread that i am blessed by reading the faith and wisdom all have declared here and Scott’s #50 is right on target, i believe …

    there is one other aspect of prayer, however, and this one is good for those of us to whom faith does not come easily and certainly not naturally – the “fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me” crowd – and that is a brain washed, if you will, by internalizing God’s Word Hebrews 4:12-16

    there has been a great deal of, pardon me for being blunt, spiritually pseudo sophisticated denigration of the trustworthiness of the written canon of Scripture and, while i am all in favor of being discerning and guarded when it comes to belief in anything, the renewing of the mind – IMHO – comes from becoming *very* familiar with the Words of God in The Book and the greater the degree that one is “brainwashed” by God’s Word, the more our prayers reflect the mind of Christ in purity, not the filtered self editing to which i, myself, am prone – i even have trouble not editing my confessions … sigh

  51. post script to my #51 … i am not advocating being in the midst of a problem, opening the Bible and looking for guidance (that may be okay too) – i want to be clear that i am advocating finding a way to become familiar with the Book and that, for most all of us, involves finding a scholarly teacher … not a platitudinous, pontificating, smiley faced Sunday sermonizer … BUT they may have a place, also – as encouragers perhaps? dunno

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