The Jackpot Prayer Request Machine of Today
Today we continued a series at Cornerstone called "Doctrine: What we Believe", which speaks to what we as Christians believe, and how we are to go about living out those beliefs (see also How to Teach the Doctrine of Salvation on Sunday Morning for a previous week). Today Josh Agerton spoke about prayer in the life of a Believer and related it back to our gum-ball machine approach we often have to prayer. Put the quarter in the slot (the prayer), and what should happen is out pops the gum-ball (our answered prayer).
This is a brief overview or recap of that message, according to the notes I took anyway. You can always download or listen to a copy of the podcast when it gets posted on Monday (Feb 28th) or you can subscribe to the podcast through iTunes.
The Gum-ball Approach To Prayer: Transactional
Although this is how we often practice prayer, there isn't a whole lot in scripture that backs up this method of prayer. Scripture says we have a need for prayer, constant prayer that builds a relationship with God, that calls on God. That goes all the way back to Genesis 4:25-26, but when do we actually pray today? When things are going well, all the time, or just when we are in "need" of something? When things are going well, is our prayer life terrible and vice-versa?
This is perhaps because we see prayer as "transactional" in nature. There is an action on two parts where I act, then God acts, making the prayer totally focused on ourselves, not God. I've got my prayer, I just need say the right words, send it over the right way, and God will then act and shoot out the "right" response.
The Relational or Transformational Approach To Prayer: Experience
Our approach to prayer should be one of building a relationship with God through constant prayer, in a way that transforms our life. This is what the apostles did in the book of Acts, they prayed. This wasn't unique to the apostles though. All over scripture we are told to "ask" and it will be given, but how closely do our prayers match up with God's will? We reach a crisis of faith that leads us to prayer and we "ask" for our answer to be given.
We pray for complete healing, and when that healing doesn't come (especially in the time frame or way we desire), do we question God's answer? Scripture clearly says our prayer is heard, but the prayer of Jesus in Luke 22:42 just before He is lead off to be executed is an amazing prayer.
22:41 And he [Jesus] withdrew from them about a stone's throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."
Ultimately this is how we are to pray, and the reason is found in Luke 11.
11:10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.11 What father among you, if his son asks fort a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"
As I have prayed for Deborah over the last several months I have tried to keep both of these sets of verses in mind, and I have tried to place them deep in my heart. Is praying like this easy? No way. It requires us to give up our own heart's desire, something I have found very hard to do. I want my prayers answered the way I ask them to be answered, but deep down, I really want an all-knowing God to answer them to His glory and honor.
The Circular Prayer as Life Happens
This chart above was something Josh went over this morning but it was not meant to be a step by step process to prayer, more of an understanding of how we approach prayer and how God works through prayer (though I didn't get the counterclockwise thing). I'm a visual person so I loved seeing this as Josh went over it. Basically, with continued, constant prayer, we will continue to build a relationship with God that leads back to God, not to ourselves.
It went like this from the chart above: God is enthroned --> life happens (sickness, job-loss, divorce) --> we have a need or burden --> we ask --> we enter a crisis of faith (I asked, why haven't you answered yet God) --> faith (we are brought to faith with God) --> receiving (God manifests Himself in some way and you know and understand that God is indeed there) --> thanks and priase --> God is enthroned.
Aren't sure what the "correct" way to come to God in prayer is or don't know the "right" way to pray? To pull a saying from Nike... just do it, but Paul probably said it best in Romans 8:25 "the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."
Often times I write my prayers out since speaking them I just tend to fumble through it. Either way I know He hears my prayers and answers better than I could ask.