Pesky Questions: More on Prayer

When someone utters something about praying hard, there are several possible responses. One is, “praying hard, or hardly praying?” A follow up of “zing!” is optional. Hardy har har.

I recently said this (sans the zing) half under my breath to Ricktopher in response to yet another comment about praying hard. He humors me. I’m less sure about how well it was received by others. Maybe they didn’t hear it.

Truth is, I’ve been swimming with all these comments and the questions they spawn and the dad joke humor was the best I could muster at that point.

My (MLE’s) extended family has been gearing up for my grandma’s heart valve replacement in a few days. Admonitions and supplications to “pray hard” have risen from various corners. I appreciate that others in my family (my grandma included) find comfort in knowing that there are lots of people praying hard for her. (This, of course, was followed up with an acknowledgement that it’s still up to God, which I always find interesting–pray, pray, pray, pray, but it’s still up to God.) I want to be a part of this web of comfort and support. But I’ve got questions.

I’m not really sure what praying really hard means. I thought I knew, but now I wonder. Is it the amount of time spent praying? The sincerity of the prayer? Does thinking about that person or situation or being thankful in general count?

At what point does a prayer become mighty or the label “praying hard” become appropriate for one’s efforts? This all seems a little too subjective to me.

Does my inaction of not praying a prayer of supplication actually negatively effect an outcome? I’ve heard this described by some as blood on our hands. That’s a little much for me, but I find it interesting. (I wish people who believe that had as strong a conviction that our inactions often make us culpable in other ways, for example in perpetuating social injustices.)

I’ve felt guilty at times. Like when I’ve said I’d pray for someone, then forgotten. To avoid this, I’ve sometimes said a quickie prayer right away, so that I don’t forget, and don’t have to try to remember it later. Though sincere (of course I want ______’s ______ to get better), these probably aren’t what most of the pray harders have in mind.

And here’s a question for those who favor the hard prayer line: It seems like praying hard, mighty prayer, etc. is almost exclusively reserved for prayers of supplication. Why is this? How would one’s prayer life be different if one injected the same level of zeal and effort in praying hard (and admonishing others to do so) into other kinds of prayer, like thanksgiving?

If it is true that prayers really can alter an outcome, can do more than send good vibes, then it seems to me we are horribly selfish and narrow-hearted in our choices about what and for whom we pray. What if everyone with even the smallest inclination to pray did so every day and prayed for world peace? Every day (good thoughts and vibes welcomed too, of course). If prayers really do change things, then why is it that when time is made during church services to pray for the afflicted, it’s almost always so and so’s physical ailment? Where are our prayers for relationships? For the poor and the starving? For those with no hope? Prayers of contrition acknowledging our inaction to seek justice and pursue peace?

I used to think I was quite good at praying. Maybe had a gift for it. People sometimes said things indicating as much. I was comfortable in the knowledge that I “knew how to pray.” Now I’m not so sure. Pesky, pesky questions.

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3 responses to “Pesky Questions: More on Prayer

  1. MLE, I really enjoyed your writing in this blog. I also share some of your ponderings in regards to prayer. Having said that, I have always been an avid prayer. Over the years I have heard many different messages/sermons about prayer. Some I agreed with, and some….not so much. Some very rigid preaching that I listened to for years taught that ANYTHING we pray for WILL happen because we simply prayed. While I DO believe very much that prayer is powerful, I do not believe that EVERYTHING we pray for happens. I am still trying in some areas to figure out the rhyme and reason of why some prayers seem to be answered and some not. I am learning (slowly) that when we pray, sometimes we are praying with an already thought out idea of how we want our prayer to be answered, and what that will look like. As a result, when God does give an answer, we have just missed seeing His mighty hand at work. I feel that sometimes others will utter “pray really hard” because they are very concerned or consumed with the situation at hand. I myself have experienced immediate healing through prayer before, I have seen others healed through prayer, and I have felt comfort, peace, and release come over others before when praying for them. I have no doubt that prayer holds immense power. The power in prayer comes from the Holy spirit in us ministering to others and working as a vessel for Jesus Christ. The other side of the token is that I have also prayed and had ALL faith that prayer would heal or save someone and the outcome was not good. During those times I questioned prayer the most. WHY pray? What good does it do? My answer was to turn to reading every scripture on prayer/praying. While I do still have questions about prayer, I realize that some of my questions may not be answered until I can ask Jesus face to face. ( And I am okay with that). In response to your statement about whether you “know how to pray or not”, YES you do! My personal praying habit is this- Stating the need, surrendering complete control (FAITH is needed here), and then thanking/praising God for His answer. I would encourage you to look up all the scripture you can find on prayer and find what is comfortable for you. I would be happy to share some stories of answered prayer with you over the phone at some point. Not that I can’t post them, but it is a lot to write. My feeling is that God desires for us is to activate our faith through praying. If we know someone has a need and we make a deliberate choice to NOT pray for them because of differences or bitterness, then one’s own selfishness is functioning in their flesh, rather than their spirit. The way I see it; praying for our own needs or others needs is an act of faith. God wants us to call on Him, praise HIm, trust Him, and most of all love Him. Even if you sometimes feel praying doesn’t result in what you ask for or make much sense, pray anyhow. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God has a plan working behind the scenes for every situation. We are precious to HIm and He wants what is best for us.

  2. Oh wow, I forgot to insert spaces, I’m sorry.

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