Everyone's got their own idea about this great big thing we cram into one word - Prayer. I pray.
To me it's simple. Simple like a woman talking to a living-breathing person, closer than any flesh and blood has ever been. But it is also cosmic and overwhelming at the soul-same time.
What a gift it is! And yet this talking and thinking and hearing from the God of all creation can be absolutely elusive for many people. So we're going to have a talk about it, right now, you and me. Here on my couch we're going to sit together, hands reaching across knees and taking hold of one another as we go deep.
You and me, right here - right now, because this stuff is more important that any simple how-to blog post you can read today! I haven't got three simple things you can do to have a better life, raise better kids, or communicate more lovingly with your spouse. This is a discussion we're having - talking together about prayer:
I'm a praying woman.
I have cried out to God for healing and help, I've prayerfully interceded for loved ones, and I have humbly asked Him to turn my sorrow into gladness. I've lifted up my children, pleaded for wisdom and discernment, and talked intimately with the Lord as I've drifted off to sleep. Last week I even prayed for our nation, smack-dab in the middle of a busy mothering day. In short: I'm a praying woman, and my motives, most often, are right pure.
Some of you would say the same, but others of you would ask me to back it up a bit.
You're not so sure about this whole idea of God and faith. Or maybe, you can get your mind around there being this Creator-God, but talking with Him like two old friends confuses and confounds you.
Yeah, I get that.
You know how I tenderly refer to this website as my Living Room? Well, the truth is, it's just a page of 1,000 words, and sometimes I wish so desperately that we could really meet together in my living room and go deep. Nevertheless, I try to hunker down on my orange couch, laptop on my knees as my littles build legos in their room down the hall, to work through these big ticket questions one at a time.
29 days into this 40 day no-sugar fast, some of you are asking WHY PRAY?
I guess the short answer is because God told us to. He specifically said that we are to come up close and have a sit down talk about it all with Him, believing. He said seek me out and you will find. He said ask me and you will receive. He charged us knock, and keep on knocking, though our knuckles get bloody, and He's going to open it all up to us... and open us up too. Isn't that a conversation with any dear friend? Open doors to one another, opening our hearts to one another.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. “Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? “Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!" (Matthew 7:7-11)
However, sometimes I forget about the intimacy of the giver who bids me come and knock and seek and find. Sometimes I forget the giver and focus solely on the gift.
In these moments I remember that God is not magic that I can conjure, but a magic deeper still. A magic wild and unbridled, beyond my fathoming mind. He is good and generous because it is His nature to be so... not because I have prayed a certain number of times each day, facing the east or the west, lying prostrate before Him. God is everywhere, always working his will into the farthest reaches of boundless creation, throughout all mankind. Who am I to wield a magic wand that He obey me?
He is beyond my imagining!
"It means that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards." (Aslan describing the Deeper Magic, The Chronicles of Narnia, Chapter 15)
Prayer touches that deepest magic. The white Witch of C.S. Lewis' Narnia wanted death for Edmond, who had most assuredly sinned. That was the Deep Magic! Though Aslan knew of a magic deeper still, a magic we discover as talk with Him and walk with Him prayerfully and in His Word. God doesn't want us to die for our sins! He died for us, as allegorical Aslan did! And prayer, talking and hearing from God, allow us to hear and receive this deepest magical, we-don't-deserve-it, GRACE gift! But after a while, we can forget about the deepest magic and think of ourselves as the magicians as we pray.
A magic trick, a little hocus pocus and fairy dust covered equation. I pray = you answer, God.
But God tells us to stay clear of sorcery of any kind, and He's no magic trick for us to play with. Absolutely, we can never squeeze The Lord of all creation into a simple A+B=C equation. Try as we may! But you and I both know how we hunger for equations, formulas, and promises that it will all go well for us if we just follow the plan. Pray and fast and tithe and memorize scripture and sing in the choir and love on widows and orphans... If I go to college, I'll be successful. If I marry a Christian, we will have kids who believe as well. If I eat healthy, I won't get cancer. If I am kind to others, people will be kind to me.
Sometimes, these things work out pretty well for us, but not always. I'm learning to be okay with that, because The magic that He conjures is love so pure I couldn't ever understand His purposes and plans this side of glory.
But still we knock and seek and ask and lift up our hands for healing, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it! God's Word is FULL of Christian equations! I'd even call them formulas...
Over and over again I see them. Believe and be saved... call out to me and I will hear you and answer you... abide in me and I will abide in you... draw near to me and I will draw near to you... you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart... And on and on. We do something and the Lord responds in favor. But it's not a magic trick and we must be very careful to remember that. He is not to be played like a deck of cards that we can manipulate to do our tricks, to do our bidding.
But at its heart, prayer is no equation. Prayer is coming and seeking. And prayer is a funny thing - equal parts boldness and humility. Come boldly, He tells us to approach Him, and yet the prayers of little children are those He hears. The veil was torn, that we might approach Him, but approach Him with meekness, lowliness, as a servant before her master.
Let us pray because He tells us to, but guard our hearts least we become formulaic in the offering.
I will do this and You, Lord, You will respond like that...
So many Christians tend toward legalism for this very reason - and it happens naturally when we think we've made sense of God! But God is a wild sort of love that cannot ever be understood until we stand face to face with Him in Glory. He is not bound by formulas just as prayer and fasting cannot ever be bound by rules. Bound by works. Though, remarkably, prayer and fasting does unleash the Power of God, it is not a cut and dry thing to be manipulated, but a taste of that deeper magic.
Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be full.
The Lord desperately wants us close to His heart, and he wants to give generously to His children, and so He's given us this thing we call prayer.
Would you like for Him to come in to the living room, center most place of your heart? Is an unanswered prayer in your wounded past holding you back? I dare you to step forward to the door and telling Him all about it. He knows and He cares and He is there to open the door and open You up too. Open you up for healing. Would you like this wild sort of love to come in and sit down and talk with you? Yes? Then start now, today, here. Lift up a whisper confession, timid and soft. "Lord, I need to know you. I don't even know about this knocking and seeking... but I sure need to find You now. Open up and let me in, show me how to open up my heart and let You in. I'm unsure. Teach me Lord. I'm crying out, just wanting to believe, Lord, help my unbelief. Here I am praying. Here I am praying, knocking, seeking, awkward about it all. Here I am Lord. I'm simply a weak person who has sinned and gone it alone for far too long. I don't want to conjure up any magic trick, God, I'm not looking for lightening and a crash of thunder... but I want you to do a magic work on my heart with your Love. Show me what that even means, I pray. Amen."
Oh Prayer... a magic deeper still.