Prayer: So personal, so powerful

(No sports today, folks. Instead, please read my essay on prayer. Thanks!)

It’s so amazing that God wants to hear from us. He wants us to pray, to come to Him with our needs, our wants, our joys, our sorrows. He wants to hear about our day, to hear about all the news, about what the kids are doing, about how much your parents are actually starting to make sense now that you’re all grown up (what a concept!). He wants to laugh with us, to cry with us.

prayerGod clings to every word we say to Him. Try to wrap your mind around that for a moment. The God of the universe wants to hear from us. Us, with all our imperfections, all our foibles and follies.

He certainly doesn’t have to. He could be a God who, after creating everybody and everything in the universe, might just sit back on His heavenly throne and spend His time looking down upon it all with pride. If you were God, wouldn’t you do that? I’m sure I would.

But that’s not our God. Our God is not only so infinite that He created the earth, the sun, the solar system and every planet in it, every star, every galaxy and the entire universe, He’s also so infinitely personal that He has numbered every hair on your head and knows about every care on your heart.

He cares about us as if we were the only thing He ever created.

Do you feel alone? Do you have things going on in your life you feel you can’t tell anyone about? Tell God. It’s not as if He doesn’t already know about it, but He longs to have you come to Him with it. He is your safe place, your shelter.

Max Lucado, in his book, Facing Your Giants, writes about the Psalms that David wrote and how often he uses the word “refuge” in them, more than 40 times:

“But never did David use the word more poignantly than in Psalm 57. The introduction to the passage explains its background: ‘A song of David when he fled from Saul into the cave.’ Lost in shadows and thought, he has nowhere to turn. Go home, he endangers his family; to the tabernacle, he imperils the priests. Saul will kill him. Here he sits. All alone. But then he remembers he’s not. And from the recesses of the cave a sweet voice floats:

“ ‘Be merciful to me, O God!

“ ‘For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I make my refuge.’ (Psalm 57:1)

Lucado concludes with this: “Make God your refuge. Let Him be the foundation on which you stand!”

Joni Eareckson Tada, the founder and CEO of the Joni and Friends International Disability Center, was left a quadriplegic by a diving accident 50 years ago this month at the age of 17. Since then, she has used her experience and the skills she learned after a long rehabilitation to help others in similar situations.

In one of her recent daily devotions, Tada remembered how much she leaned on Jesus Christ, especially in the time immediately following her injury:

“I recall times long ago in the hospital when Jesus came through as my friend. There were times when He was my one and only comfort during dark lonely nights after visiting hours. Friends or family weren’t allowed in, so I soothed my pain by imagining a visit from another Friend.

“I pictured Jesus — walking through the open doors of my hospital ward, His figure a silhouette against the light from the nurses’ station down the hall. My mind’s eye saw Him walking softly past the beds of my sleeping roommates. I’d comfort myself, imagining His standing at my bedside. The sharp pang of loneliness was eased as I thought of questions He might ask: ‘Tell me what happened in therapy today. Was it nice to see your sister earlier in the evening? Tell me all about it.’

“Talking with Jesus strengthened my confidence in Him, a friend who would ultimately see me through months of suicidal depression at the prospect of permanent paralysis. He was the one who lent a sympathetic ear, His eye contact never faltering.

“What a friend I have in Jesus. But I wonder … what kind of a friend does He have in me?

“Too often we stay at an arm’s-length distance, pulling back from the full intensity of an intimate friendship with the Lord. We satisfy ourselves with ‘less’ when it comes to our relationship with Him. But His love explodes our selfishness when we hear Him say, ‘I have called you friends [John 15:15].’ His love breaks our hearts as only an intimate friend can.”

Maybe you want to talk to God, but aren’t sure what to say. Or maybe your grief, despair or anger is so completely painful and debilitating, you don’t know how to express them. It’s important that you know this: The Holy Spirit is there for us, pleading our case before our Heavenly Father.

In Romans 8:26, the apostle Paul tells us, “the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”

Does that describe how you feel? We can still come to God even in our weakest, most defeated, most ashamed moment and even when we know we can’t possibly even lift our heads before God, the Spirit will communicate for us to Him.

Two verses later, in Romans 8:28, Paul continues: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

An important thing in prayer is to turn ourselves over to God’s will. Prayer isn’t an Amazon wish list. While it’s perfectly fine to present our needs and even our wants to God, we need to understand that God is sovereign and that it is His will that will be done.

Even Jesus, when He prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before His arrest, submitted to the Father’s will. Jesus “fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.’ ” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus, being as human as you and I, did not want to suffer the pain of His beatings and crucifixion and asked that if it was possible, to have it taken away. But He still recognized He should submit to His Father’s will.

Back in Romans, Paul sums up his point by saying this in 8:31: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

Indeed, who could stand against us if God is for us?

Romans 8 concludes with this powerful statement in verses 35-39:

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written,

“ ‘For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;

“ ‘We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’

“But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Prayer, such an intimate, personal thing, brings us in contact with the most powerful Friend we could ever have.


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