Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
- James 5:13-16
“Prayer is the recognition that if God had not engaged himself in our problems, we would still be lost in the blackness. It is by his mercy that we have been lifted up. Prayer is that whole process that reminds us of who God is and who we are.
“I believe there is great power in prayer. I believe God heals the wounded, and that he can raise the dead. But I don’t believe that we tell God what to do and when to do it.
“God knows that we, with our limited vision, don’t even know that for which we should pray. When we entrust our requests to him, we trust him to honor our prayers with holy judgment.”
- Max Lucado, Walking with the Savior
Philip Yancey said in his book, Prayer, that in evangelical churches (unknown how he defined evangelical), prayer was telling God what to do. While in liberal churches, prayer was this call to action, something that had to be overcome so that the church could do the real work.
In my experience, I sorta agree. Most of our prayers rush past the praise and thanks to get down to “Hey, Daddy, here’s our list to pass along to Santa Claus.” Please don’t take offense. If you do, listen to the next corporate prayer at church. I have been subjected to liberal preachers. The ones that I have heard hate praying. My belief is that they have this fear that God might answer and tell them that they are wrong.
We lived in West Richland, WA over 20 years ago. It was both comical and sad when the Korean Mission church and the Presbyterian church combined to have one service, including Holy Communion, in the Tri-Cities of Richland, Kennewick, and Pasco. The liberal Presbyterian pastor was rushing through the institutions of communion when the Korean pastor nearly shouted to be heard. “We mustn’t go further until we have prayed.” By that time, a couple of the traditional prayers had been skipped. For a moment, there was dead silence in the room. At that moment, I realized how the liberals among us treated communication with God and I prayed for them.
A side note: We returned to this part of Washington state to look around, eat Mongolian BBQ, and shop at our favorite bookstore. It was about 15 years later. When we had left, the Korean church was using the Presbyterian church’s sanctuary on Sunday afternoon, not having a church building of their own. When we returned, the Korean church had built a huge church a few blocks away, so large that the church filled an entire block. The Presbyterian church was still there, looking unkempt and tinier than it was when we were members. Maybe the trees around it were larger.
I had a heart catheterization earlier this week. I was having shortness of breath. For a few weeks, I was waking up with pressure against my chest, like a hippopotamus had been sitting on it. I reserve the elephant for when it gets worse, if it ever does. The pressure subsided, usually by lunchtime each day. Then last Saturday, a friend suggested that “God has this, don’t get nervous.” I knew God had this. I am always in His hands, but the pressure that day did not go away. Then I watched an episode of Gaither Homecoming Hour and every song seemed to say that I should let it go and let God take over. The pressure was gone by the end of the program and I sat there laughing. Laughing at myself for having any fears at all.
Does God heal us every time we request it? No, but in the end, we go to be with Him where there is no more pain.
Does God grant you the lottery win when you are down on your luck? Absolutely not, but I cannot count the times that my wife has been walking through a shopping center parking lot, praying that the groceries had cost more than expected, and “Oh, Lord, you promised to protect us. Where are You when we need You?” Then since her head was bowed, but her eyes were open (she was walking to the car), she has seen a quarter on the pavement, or a dollar bill, or a $20 bill. Never enough to put us on easy street, but enough for God to say, “I am doing as I promised. Have faith.” She believes that people should not litter, so she picks up the littered money. We usually give this found money to the church. My wife’s prayer wasn’t about the money as it was about God being there.
Why do we pray? It is not to tell God what to do and when to do it, but when God answers a prayer at a specific time, He reveals Himself to us.
As Max Lucado said, we are recognizing that God loves us and cares about us. God has an entire universe to deal with, maybe more than one. We, each of us and even as a group collectively, are such an insignificant smudge in that universe, but that does not diminish God’s love for us.
There is never a moment when God does not love and care for us, but He treats our requests with holy judgment, for we don’t really have a clue what God’s perfect plan is in our lives. We just put the next foot forward and go as God leads. Yes, God leads us, if we listen, pray, and study His Word.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.