We’ve all heard the most common response: Sometimes the answer is “no.” That’s the snappy answer, but there’s more to it than that. I’m worried about what we pray for, how we pray, what we think we’re up to in prayer.
Remember the “Prayer of Jabez” fad a few years back? An author took one verse (1 Chron 4:10) and spun it into a modern take on the prosperity gospel. That is, if you pray hard enough and you believe hard enough, you will be rewarded in material ways. It’s easy to consider God as a giant ATM — put in a prayer, pull out what you’ve asked for.
Of course, that’s not the nature of God. We live in relationship with God, and to live in relationship means to be in conversation. They asked Jesus how to pray, and he gave an outline that we remember as The Lord’s Prayer. In it we praise God, seek God’s will, and ask for no more than what we need to make it through this life — “our daily bread.” By praying like this every day, we stay in conversation with God and think more about God’s will than our own needs.
Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” God’s presence is the answer to every prayer. No matter our worries, we are not alone.
Michael Rich, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Jacksonville
Maybe we need to be in tune
Prayer is the human privilege of speaking to the Divine. Generally, it cannot be hurried but happens in the context of silence and solitude.
Prayer includes listening to God, which must also be practiced because, in short: 1) God is not human but spirit, and listening to a spirit is a bit different than listening to another human. 2) God is not the only one speaking — often we hear our own thoughts, thoughts of others or the voices of other celestial beings.
My mother used to say, “You have to stand in the way of a blessing.” I recently heard an illustration that explains what my mother was saying: A radio station is constantly sending out a signal that will allow you to hear its programming. The signal is all around you, while you sleep or play, it is constantly being broadcast, yet you don’t receive it.
Like the radio station, I wonder if God is constantly speaking — his response is all around us, but we never hear him. To hear the radio program, you must adjust your radio’s frequency to that at which the station is broadcasting. I wonder if that could be in part the solution for us — adjusting our minds and hearts to the frequency at which God is speaking.
E. Steven Richardson, 17th Street Missionary Baptist Church, Anniston