Saturday, November 24, 2012

Asking God What to Pray

It was pretty revolutionary.  One night a few years back we were taking prayer requests at Awana, and I thought, “Why don’t I ask God what to pray?”  I could see if He included any instructions in the Bible on what to pray for.  I could also ask God to let me know.

When I studied the Bible for insights into prayer – specifically for instructions on what to pray – I discovered that God expected His people to know what He wanted them to pray. 

James holds up Elijah as an example to us of prayer.  He was a man, just like we are men and women, but he prayed and God answered, even though his prayers were for incredible things.  When I read the story James referenced, I saw that Elijah was a prophet, to whom the word of the LORD came regarding the famine.  1 Kings doesn’t even say that Elijah prayed, but that the famine would stay or go at his word!

John testifies that if we pray according to God’s will, we can have confidence that He hears us and that we have whatever we have asked.  I’m incredibly discontent with the interpretation that if in our prayers we happen to stumble upon what God wanted to do anyway, we can have confidence that God heard our prayers in doing it.  No.  I believe we can know, in at least some cases, what God’s will is, and pray for Him to bring it about.  It is in these prayers that we can have confidence. 

Again and again I see the promise that we will receive what we pray.  Jesus says that if we pray in His name, we’re assured that God will do it.  That these prayers will yield fruit.  

Now – I don’t refuse to talk to God until I know what He wants me to ask.  There are different kinds of prayer.  I like to talk to Him.  I tell Him what I’m thinking and feeling and confused about and having a hard time with.  I lay my desires before Him.  I ask Him to use my prayers, and to guide my prayers.  And He doesn’t always tell me right away what to pray.  I suspect He wants me to keep seeking Him. 

Prayer changes me.  It humbles me to come to God and confess that I need Him.  I need Him even to help me to pray.  I can’t demand of Him when He will reveal His will, or what that will shall be.  I get to offer to Him my own preferences and requests and surrender them to be changed, if they are not aligned with His will. 

At first I was just experimenting with a bright idea, asking God to tell me what to pray.  However, it’s become something that is shaping my life, enlightening my understanding of God’s relationship with His people.  It’s not something I’m just trying out or wondering; I’ve experienced it, and I believe that God has ordained for prayer to function this way. 

To God be all glory.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day Now.

I resigned my job.  This happened over a month ago now.  For the first three weeks or so I decided not to work on discerning God’s will for my future.  I focused on God – lots and lots of praying needed to happen and partly motivated my choice to stop working two days a week.  And I focused on people. 

For three weeks now I’ve been living in November, the first month of the rest of my life when I’m supposed to be figuring out what else to do.  I’ve made some discoveries, like the need for about $90 in gas money each month or to dramatically cut back.  Friends have been in town and many will come and go from now through early January.  It is convenient to bend my schedule around others, and also to feel, by being at home, that I have time to accomplish things like dishes and laundry and cooking and other little projects here and there.  There are stacks of books waiting in my room for me to read.  Some of them are, I sense, rather important to whatever life God will call me to

Some friends are talking with me about what it means to LIVE in hope.  We see God working and we hope for what He will do next.  I try to keep myself open to the changes I pray for.  And we still want to live as God’s instruments right now.  We want eyes that are wide open to the work He is doing all around us, and the part He calls us to play.  How do we live content with the path God leads us on, the way God loves us, even though sometimes it feels incredibly slow or like being left behind (by everyone but God)? 

With these eyes opened to the God who grows people in His garden, I start to notice people who are un-miss-able.  They protrude into my life and I wonder what God wants me to do with them since I have no clue.  So I beg God for insight into the spiritual strengths and weaknesses of these people.  I cry out to be filled with God’s love for them.  My friends help me to understand what I see and hear and where I am failing to esteem others.

I keep on realizing so many things I have no clue about.  The times when God clearly leads me I rejoice, and I cling to those revelations with as much sightless faith as I can muster.  He faithfully provides all the assurance and help I really need to trust Him.  And I wait.  God hasn’t made everyone’s life a parable of waiting, but He keeps on blasting this theme through mine. 

To God be all glory.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Exercises in Hope

Why it’s ok to look at engagement rings and date ideas as a single girl…

You hear it, if you’re a single woman, that the secret is to be content where you are.  Marriage can be an idol, after all, and you just have to be busy forgetting that you’re a woman whose calling is to be a wife and a mom.  That way you’ll not waste your life.  That way you’ll be like everyone else.  That way you’ll convince God that He can safely give you a husband and you won’t love the man more than the Giver. 

I’ve been single long enough to be tired of hearing it.  I also don’t agree.  If it is true that God is calling me to be a wife and a mom, then it seems like I should be justified in preparing for that.  I ought to be expecting God to do what He says.  My life should reflect that future, just like a man called to missions studies the language and the gospel – or a woman called to nursing learns how to start an IV (and maybe even purchases a set of scrubs). One might compare this to the wise virgins having oil in their lamps, from Jesus' parable.  

Some days I get kind of discouraged about the whole thing.  And doing something that I would do if I knew from circumstances that I was getting married, even though circumstances aren’t showing that, is an act of faith in the invisible reality God knows about.  So it actually cheers me up to look through simple, inexpensive engagement rings and date ideas and to pick up the little useful-for-a-wedding-thing cheap at a thrift store.  It’s pretty useful to be doing things preparing for that life: read a parenting book; practice meal planning; learn better ways of communicating.  I expect to be a mom, so I can learn about pregnancy and attend a friend’s childbirth.  I expect to have a wedding, so I can brainstorm how I want the food at the reception to go. 

I wouldn’t encourage a single person to do this every day.  (Married people probably shouldn’t do such things every day either!)  I don’t want to encourage discontent.  But can we please, please believe that God will do what He says?  Can that belief affect the choices we make with our lives? 

To God be all glory.