Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Prayer - The Starting Line

This prayer journey I have been on is coming to a culmination of sorts as I am tasked with teaching on the subject of prayer at our women's Bible study. Since I write now in blog form, I am going to use a series of blog vignettes to teach. Here is my first:

I want to start by admitting that I am not a prayer warrior. I do not have all the answers. And if you all decide that I must be the person to share your prayer requests with I must truthfully admit now that I will probably forget half of them because I am not very disciplined about praying for others, yet. Instead, I am a student just like all of you, trying to figure this whole prayer thing out.

I started my journey about a year ago when I came to the realization that I needed to really engage God in prayer but I did not feel like I knew how. I knew the basics, the Lord's Prayer, ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). I knew the common scriptures about prayer: Pray without ceasing (I Thes 5:17), Ask and it shall be given unto you (Matt 7:7), Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (Mark 1:35). I knew we were instructed to pray. I knew the early church was actively engaged in the work of prayer. I knew also that our prayers are often misguided and even self indulgent. I felt at a loss for what to pray. What is God's will? Is this the right thing to pray for? What does God want from prayer? I finally, after decades in the church, felt compelled to try to figure this whole prayer thing out. But how?

I decided to ask some of the people I trusted most, who I knew truly understood prayer, for some recommendations for books to read. I compiled the list, looked them up on Amazon and ordered the whole stack. As a history teacher, I like to have multiple sources before I come to a conclusion for myself. A group of friends and I also decided to read through the Bible in 2010. The first book I started reading was Andrew Murray's "With Christ in the School of Prayer." Wow! What a great way to start. I wrote about what I was learning here, here, here and here. The most important lesson being that books and sermons are great to help you learn and understand, but first and foremost we need to ask Jesus to be our instructor. We need to sign up with Him for His class on prayer. Murray ended his first chapter with this prayer which I took on as my own:
Lord Jesus! I ask Thee this day to enroll my name among those who confess that they know not how to pray as they ought, and specially ask Thee for a course of teaching in prayer. Lord! teach me to tarry with Thee in the school, and give Thee time to train me. May a deep sense of my ignorance, of the wonderful privilege and power of prayer, of the need of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of prayer, lead me to cast away my thoughts of what I think I know, and make me kneel before Thee in true teachableness and poverty of spirit.
I went on to read "The Prayer of the Lord" by RC Sproul, "Praying: Finding our Way Through Duty to Delight" by J.I Packer and Carolyn Nystrom, and "A Praying Life" by Paul E. Miller. Through all these books, the Bible reading, and oh yes the two different sermon series I listened to this year (I love how God gives you abundant opportunities to learn when you go to him to create the syllubus), I have grown as a student. I have a much better understanding of prayer, mostly because I have given up trying to understand it. I have come to a place where I can stand in the mysterious, boldly coming before God with my hopes, hurts and needs, being sure that His answer to my prayers is the BEST answer for me, even if I don't like the answer or the amount of days, weeks, or years I have to bring the same prayer before Him without closure.

I don't understand it all. I am still horribly inconsistent. I still have a few more books in my stack to read. But I am seeing God working through my prayers over the last year. The prayers of someone testing out this whole prayer thing. The prayers of someone doubting that God cares, but still coming before Him with my heart. The prayers said with an arrogant or angry tone for people who have annoyed or hurt me. The prayers said with heartfelt gratitude for God calling me His child.

I don't know if I will ever be a prayer warrior but I am finally engaged in prayer.

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