In my last post, I talked about cheap talk and cheap grace. Today, I want to turn the tables a bit, and talk about the value of talk– specifically prayer and words of encouragement.
Our society has become very fond of visuals– charts, graphs, comparisons, checklists, measurements, etc. We want to see documentation of goals met, incremental achievements, mastery levels, and verified accomplishments.
Prayer doesn’t fit that mold. God doesn’t send us a “receipt” for prayer requests received or answered. There is no contest for the number or quality of prayers listed up to heaven. There is no “success” strategy that guarantees speedier responses or “better” miracles.
I’m writing and thinking about prayer, but I can’t claim to be an expert or proficient, or better able to teach about prayer than anyone else. Still, I think I can speak from experience to the value of pursuing a life of prayer and honest reflection before God. Like most other worthy pursuits, prayer is learned and refined through practice. The more I pray, the more I understand what it is, how it works, and why it is important.
“I shouldn’t just be praying about this, I should be DOING something…” In times of stress, disaster, or crisis, it is tempting to believe that visual, measurable action is what counts. Prayer is for those who cannot or will not take action..it is plan B. But this view cheapens prayer. Prayer should be our first response. Pray for wisdom and guidance before taking action, and you may avoid making frantic and ineffective decisions. Sometimes, our wisest action is to watch God do what we could not imagine; sometimes it is to support and encourage others, instead of pushing through, stepping on toes, or getting in the way. Prayer can teach us more about trusting God; it can give us peace and confidence to act more effectively, and it can open our eyes to the opportunities in the midst of crisis. That doesn’t mean that prayer should become a substitute for action when we have the means and opportunity and motivation to act. But there are times when I think we act out of a sense of false pride or impatience, rather than a prompting of the heart, mind, or spirit.
We are commanded to pray– even to pray continually, constantly– without ceasing. While this (of course) doesn’t mean that our every waking moment should be consumed with prayer to the exclusion of anything else, it means that God values our words, praises, songs, groans, tears, joyful whoops, and other communications with him. This raises a question that I have struggled with in the past. If God is omnipotent, he doesn’t NEED my prayer to bring change, or healing, or success, or protection, or anything else. Yet he wants me to pray– he tells me that if I pray in faith I can ask anything in his Name and he will give it to me. This seems like a paradox, but I believe that God’s command is not about Him. In this case, it is about us. He wants to include us in the work he is doing; in the change and healing he brings (or even withholds). Why– because he is a generous God! He gives us the privilege of being part of the goodness he sends. He wants us to share the power of speaking goodness, peace, forgiveness, and blessing. As we share our hearts and lives with him, he wants to include us in his work. Not all my prayers fall into this category, but what an encouragement to value prayer– especially prayers lifting up our needs to a loving God.
Talk is cheap, action is precious, but prayer is priceless…May I remember the difference!