I lift my hands before him in church, and then find myself looking around to see if anyone else has their hands up. Losers with your hands in your pocket! Don’t you know who we are singing to! *fixes shirt* Oh! I’m worshipping. La-tee-da! She’s pretty. I’m hungry. *guilt for the judgment filled loser thought*
I sit to pray and seek God for my life and others. *we need milk and creamer and some brussel sprouts* Thoughts fly through my head. *oh my word, it’s dirty under that couch!* Humanity wins over the spirit. The pull on my mind to pay attention and “fix my eyes on Jesus” can be annoying. I can be very mean to myself about how easy it is for me to bear the weight of the Beheadings in my chest, and in my next thought wonder how on earth I’m going to ever find the right pair of jeans!
We are tragic. We are messy. We are beautiful. We are full of hope. We are tired. We are wired. We are longing for things to be drastically different, and then are swallowed up in the joy that things can be calm and clean and the same.
We want to eat ourselves silly on books and blogs that feed a peaceful and carefree, full-of-Jesus, all-about-me life.
We want it easy. We so desperately wish things were easy! I know I do. I want the white-walled life with the right lighting and soft hues. I want the life that polishes Jesus and makes him my pillow, my comfort, my peace. We desire to have a kind-hearted, blissfully balanced life full of complementary colors coupled with the right chairs and blankets.
God, I want that.
But, it doesn’t fit what I see is the call to follow Christ in the Word. That? That’s messy. That’s challenging and wild and crazy and really irritating because it goes so much against what I want. And the mess in my heart is just messier. How desperate I am to surrender to him. Just give up because the more I say I am a Christ follower, the more I realize there is no pretty way to do it. And I want to do things his way more than I want the cushy life that begs for me to run after it. I really do want to follow him.
There is indeed a time to center and let the Holy Spirit fill the space in my life that is nothing but all the space in me. There is no God-sized hole in my heart because God isn’t in the business of filling holes. He is in the business of fulfilling his glory in our lives. He wants to dominate. Take over the life he died for. Have complete control. Fill the fullest measure.
There are no God-sized holes. How trite. How dare we use such pathetic descriptions of what we are without God.
If we have any holes in us that need to be filled by God it should be the unending black hole of desperation for his presence. Moses did not even want to go the promised land without God. The promised land! All that was promised, all the dreams, all the hopes, all the stuff that God told him would be his was nothing if God was not there.
Can I say the same thing? If I looked just at tomorrow, just tomorrow, never mind any dream I may have, never mind any goal I might have prepared, would I say, “I cannot go to tomorrow if You are not with me.”
What does that say about my today? What does that say about what and how I pray? What does that say about my intimacy with Jesus? The answer to that question leads us to look at how personal and seriously we take this intimate, messy-life thing we call prayer.
Taking a few moments to take inventory on the reasons I haven’t prayed in the past (or not so distant yesterday), I came up with a short list.
Maybe we don’t pray because…
we do not think that He is everything we need, not only for us, but for the world. Is he really everything you need? Or do you “got this”? Could you remove God from all facets of your life and it look the same?
we are swimming in unbelief. We believe that our tomorrows rest on our shoulders. We believe that our talent, our charisma, our connections, our feeds, our blogs, our next thing, can be done in our power, our way. We believe he won’t come through, or that we couple our little strengths with his, like he is a spotter as we lift the weights of ministry. We believe certain things about God and other things about God for other people, but have a heck of a time believing things that he says in his Word about us.
we have been pacified and babied in our walks with Jesus. We have fed each other spoonfuls of grace and love and forgotten to drop on our knees, grab the arm of the person next to us, pull them down and spend our strength in prayer before a holy and awesome God. We’ve forgotten to chew on the sinew of maturity and be grown up in Christ.
we do not see needs beyond our own teeth. And those needs get tiresome and boring and we get sick of hearing ourselves ask for the same thing over and over and then when “it” doesn’t happen, we are pissed and he is a lousy provider.
we forget that we are filled with the Spirit, the same Spirit that hovered over the waters at creation. The same one that dropped life-fire on the men in Acts. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead. The same Spirit that is sealed up in us and has the power to stop your breath just after you take the next one. We do not pray because we forget…and we grossly underestimate.
we are blinded by lights and shows of greatness. Great people writing great things and tweeting great stuff. We watch and like and retweet and laugh and applaude and then move on to the next thing like this blog post.
We do not pray because we give time to what really matters to us. Think about what you give your time to. What fills the ticking minutes of your day? I know what fills mine and, wow, I need to put that stupid phone down.
we do not know the Word of God. You cannot pray to a God you do not know and cannot pray for what he wants if you have no idea what his agenda is or what he has even asked you to pray.
we are ignorant. Ignorant because we go day to day without engaging in the tough news of life and putting that up against God’s Word. Ignorant because we do not practice prayer and learn more and more and more.
These judgements are harsh, but I can only say them because I have lived every one of those. They are life-drainers. The only way we will every have a breakthrough in how and what we pray is when we have a breakdown of ourselves and a soul willing to be interrupted and overrun by the great God we say we serve.
We greatly, and I mean, greatly underestimate the power of prayer in our lives, and even more so in the outcomes of what can happen in the world. We dismiss it as something other people do and aren’t even sure about how to do it. But, we must pray. We must change the list of reasons we don’t pray and write a list of reasons that we do pray.
We pray because
He is everything we need. Everything.
we believe. We believe there is nothing in us, or given to us by him, that we can do without him. We believe that he is the only way we can do anything he has called us to. We believe and take him at his Word at every turn of the page and then we bow in prayer in belief that the Holy Spirit is making those things possible in our lives and in the world.
we realize we must grow in maturity and move beyond being babied and coddled and rise up in the power and strength afforded to us.
we see a world in need of Jesus and we have the power to give him to them. We can go and send people into the world, both down the street and into the places where the Gospel has never been heard. We can do that!
we have been given the power and the freedom to do so. Our enemies can take everything from us, but they cannot take the Spirit in us or our freedom to pray. Don’t squander that freedom now, use it like it could be threatened tomorrow.
we are filled with the mighty and awesome and powerful prayer-instilling and prayer-answering Holy Spirit who causes us to fight in the Spirit and know the Word of God so that we can stand against the enemy, send the forces of the Gospel into the darkness, and rise up in strength against persecution and hardship.
we forcefully humble ourselves to be caught up in the greatness of Jesus and not each other.
we realize the importance of it and we give our time and effort to it knowing that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
we have ingested and digested the Word of God so deeply that we cannot not pray because of the truth that dwells in us. The Word of God shows us the greatness of God and we will make our mark in prayer because prayer is where courage is unleashed.
we are incredibly smart and ingenious men and women of God who will not let being ignorant of God’s Word stop us. We learn, we read, we understand, we go after knowledge of Christ in each other and in prayer.
We pray because we know the need is great and our hearts should be so full of fire for the name of God to be displayed that we can do nothing without prayer. We pray because we are so for certain that there is no greater need than the need to pray.
So, what do you do?
Find out what to pray.
Learn how to pray. (You’re you. It’s between you and him)
Join with others to pray.
Pray at church.
Pray at home.
Be aware and pray for others.
This list is almost endless. But, if we do not pray, I fear we cut of the very power afforded to us by the Holy Spirit. Will you join me in the great and mysterious wonder of humble and deliberate, life and world altering prayer?
At the end of the age, you’ll be glad you did.
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18