Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the SpiritThessalonians 5:16-9 [NIV]
I was listening to a podcast recently and the guy was speaking about prayer. He used this analogy, of himself and his daughter to try to show how God, who loves us utterly, hears us when we pray. It’s not a perfect picture but it really helped me see prayer in a new and clearer way:
The father would often take his young daughter to the park. While she was playing he would usually grab a coffee and chat with the other parents. He recalled how he would sometimes hear his daughter calling him, in such a way that he knew she didn’t really need him, and she could independently sort out whatever the problem was herself. He knew, as a father, that the best way for his daughter to grow in independence was to use her own initiative to work out how she would solve the problem she found herself in. Then, less often he would hear her calling and he knew it was a little more serious and so he would look up from his coffee or conversation to check she was okay, and help her if she really needed it. Lastly, and only very rarely, she would call his name in such a way that no matter how good the coffee, or deep in conversation he was it, without hesitation he would run as fast as he could to his daughter because he knew she desperately needed him.
This story was used to illustrate prayer with the father mirroring God, and the daughter representing us. I want to speak about three points;
1) regardless of how the Father chooses to respond to his daughter he loves her exactly the same.
2) we are asked to bring ALL things before God in prayer while actively using the unique gifting and abilities God has given us.
3) there are different types of prayer and what does this practically look like in our lives.
I think the first lesson we can learn from this story is that regardless of how the father chooses to respond to his daughter he loves her exactly the same, and this is true for us when we pray to God. The outcome of our prayers should not be used, to measure how much we think God loves us, because He loves us all equally and relentlessly. We must try to humble ourselves before Him, who has infinitely more wisdom and knowledge than us, and rest in His promises, trusting He is the God of all outcomes. God is omniscient, all knowing.
Never forget that God isn’t bound by time the way we are. We see only the present moments; God sees everything. We see only part of who He is doing; He sees it all.Billy Graham
Secondly, we are called and even encouraged to bring ALL things before God in prayer, but what is important to note is that God has given us all unique gifting and abilities. Which we are meant to use! I believe there will be times that your prayers are not specifically answered, but this is not because God wasn’t listening, He always listens, but because God knows you can do it yourself. Truthfully, I think prayer can sometimes be used as an excuse for inactivity, we would prefer God to do a miracle so we don’t have to get our hands dirty. For example, praying for the person at school who is being bullied but not standing up for them. We should be careful to avoid this.
Thirdly, there are different types of prayer, shown in the story of the father and daughter.
1) casual everyday prayers, such as quick thank you, sorry, and pleases.
2) prayers that are less regular about the harder parts of life, potentially for your future, guidance in a relationship etc.
3) desperation and weeping, a crying out to God because that is all we can do, this is called intercession.
I find it is useful to differentiate between different types of prayers because it helps us more thoroughly examine our own prayer life and how we may grow in the above. Some people naturally love prayer and feel most connected to God when praying. But a lot of us really struggle with it. I find it hard to concentrate and be consistent, and often do not feel close to God when I’m praying. However I believe prayer is something we can become better at as we practise. We shouldn’t be afraid or give up praying because of where we fall short, such as when we aren’t consistent, or when we don’t feel close to God. God sees our hearts and when they are in the right place, our prayers, no matter how messy, confusing, random or distracted, are beautiful to Him.
God hears you, loves you and knows you regardless of whether your prayer was answered miraculously and specifically, or completely differently to how you imagined. Or even when you feel it has not been answered at all. Practically, we can all improve by building habits of consistent prayer, encouraging and keeping each other accountable, and learning more about prayer by reading the Bible, listening to podcasts, reading books, and following the example of others who have learnt to speak and listen to God well.
Listen to the podcast I mentioned HERE