Saturday, August 13, 2011

to push past the barrier of my brain and pray





When I was in my teens, the concept of prayer left me bemused. Even long-standing, mature Christians may understand where I was coming from. At times, we may feel tempted to bypass prayer because it seems to violate our gift of common sense. The caption under the guy at the top of this page expressed it for me. How can talking to an invisible person about things He already knows improve our condition one iota? It would seem that our time may be better employed by getting out there and doing things, or seeking the counsel of flesh-and-blood people whose facial expressions we can see, and whose advice we can actually hear with our physical ears.

Then I was drawn to the story of Naaman, the Syrian army commander who contracted leprosy. He was also advised to do something that made no earthly sense to him. He'd traveled such a long way to consult Elisha, the prophet from Israel he'd heard good things about. He did it out of desperation but hadn't expected Elisha's advice to be so ridiculous. In the first place, Elisha wouldn't even do him the courtesy of coming out to speak to him. He merely sent a message. "Tell him to go and dip himself in the water of the Jordan River seven times."

What a major let-down! The poor guy had common sense. He'd already washed himself several times in clean water at home, to no avail. The dirty water of the Jordan would only swell the sores with more infection and make him worse. I would have said, "So much for that quack! A prophet indeed!" Only one little Hebrew maid helped Naaman put his position in perspective when she said, "Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something costly and complicated, you would have done it, wouldn't you? And this is so easy, what do you have to lose?"

Thank God Naaman was open-hearted enough to listen, because we all know what happened when he did.

That got me wondering if I was like Naaman? The Bible tells us that God loves to use the 'foolish' things of this world to confound the wise. The simple thing He asks of us is to humble ourselves and pray. If He'd asked me to carry out some complex chanting, cleansing or posturing formula ritualistically each day, I tend to think I might have taken Him far more seriously.

Yes, I was dealing with the same God who asked Naaman to dip himself seven times in the Jordan. He asked Joshua to have his army march silently seven times around the walls of Jericho before blowing their horns. He asked Moses to speak to the rock, demanding water. He asked Ezekiel to to lie on his side for months, eating food cooked over cow dung (and originally it was meant to have been human dung, but Ezekiel was too 'straight' for that). As the ultimate craziness, He allowed His Son to die on the Cross in the place of sinners, so anyone who believes in Him would have their sins blotted out. That has been a crazy-sounding stumbling block to many.

What eccentric, unorthodox action is He asking of me? Simply to talk to Him and believe that He's listening and willing to act on my behalf. He asks me to expect that He'll honour my obedience with answers. He asks me to forget any illusions that I'm merely hot-airbagging to the four walls of my room. When I think about it, this is totally consistent with His other 'crazy' behavior and makes perfect sense.

Since taking this attitude on board, I've experienced and heard about many, many answers to prayer and ways in which it has made a vital difference to situations. How about you?

8 comments:

  1. I can't live without my quiet times with the Lord - even if He doesn't say much. I have found that if I do not spend time in prayer, I simply do not cope as well with the load I have for each day. None of it makes much sense - but hey, like you said, God doesn't always make sense. Thanks Paula.

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  2. Too true Paula. I love how the bible says that we must become less and less and he must become more in our lives. The things of God seem foolish to people who don't know him and trust him, because they are things of the Spirit and unless you have given your life to Jesus, you are not yet born of the Spirit. I have to continually wrestle with my flesh to give my life each day to God. I am so glad he is patient with us. Being able to talk to God is such a gift. xx

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  3. For me, prayer often allows me to see a situation from a different point of view. The bigger picture. And, yes, I agree with this post tremendously. God's way is so different from our own "common sense" way of thinking. But it's the right way and we can be secure in that ... thankfully!

    Enjoy your week! - Kate

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  4. Great post Paula. Our pastor just preached a series on prayer and I came to realise how much I pray and how little many people pray.
    Daily encouragement is what I feel from God when I pray - and I know that prayer is something we are just meant to be doing - I'm expecting to see how many of my prayers were answered and how ... when I get to heaven. hehe

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  5. I tend to think I look pretty silly when I put effort into prayers for my pets. I had an experience recently, with one of our cats. She has been sick, and last Saturday she spent the day laying on the bathroom floor. I really thought the end was near, and trying to be positive for my kids was hurting me inside. So I sat in my room and cried, and my husband came in to comfort me. He told me that in situations like this, all we can do is pray. I said I had been, but the irony was that I don't see prayer as asking for things and getting them. I know the answer can't always be what I want. But instead of stopping, I spent the night saying "Jesus, I trust in you." and hoping for the best. The next morning she was sitting upright and now she is acting more like herself. And just to make certain I got the message, Sunday's mass was all about prayer. Coincidence? I think not!

    Peace and Laughter!

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  6. Thanks everyone. I love Cristina's story. I have a few like that to share and I'm sure we all do. No, I've come not to believe in pure coincidences either.

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  7. Paula, this was a great post and EXACTLY what I needed. I first read it a couple of days ago but couldn't leave a comment. Anyways, now that the tech problem is out of the way I just HAD to come back and tell you how much it meant to me!

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  8. Hey Janet, I'm really glad to hear about the good timing. Thanks for popping back to let me know.

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Thanks for your comments.

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