When You Believe in God But Not in Prayer
The clouds shimmied. Dark skies pushed aside hope. Rain was coming.
I’m nine years old and I love baseball more than anything. And this day – well, this day was game day.
Sitting in my room, staring out the window into the dark abyss, I prayed. Earnestly. Heartfelt. With everything I believed in.
“God, please ~ PLEASE ~ don’t let the rain come. I wanna play!”
I’m fairly certain I was in tears.
Needless to say, it rained and it rained hard. Nature took her course. The game was canceled. Despite living in Rain Central or Longview, Washington, I just believed God didn’t answer my prayers.
Now I’m 26 years old and I still don’t fully comprehend prayer.
The Christian Atheist, written by Craig Groeschel, offers insight into how Christian Atheists may believe in God, but not entirely in prayer.
Christian Atheists find reasons not to pray. Maybe they aren’t good enough or maybe they don’t believe it will make any different. Maybe they think it is silly since, in their minds, God already has determined what is going to happen (90).
Instead, Groeschel reminds readers that prayer is simply “communicating with God.” We are instructed to pray openly, continually, and with gut-level honesty. Prayer requires that we listen more than ask. It requires humans to give up control and trust in something greater than themselves.
Why do prayers sometimes work and sometimes don’t? Well, that’s the age ol’ question. What he does say is that certain things do tend to push more answered prayers. For instance, before you pray, consider:
* Your relationship with others (Mark 11:24)
* Motives (James 4:3)
* The way you live (James 5:16)
* The amount of faith you contain (James 1:6-7)
* God’s will (1 John 5:14-15).
The caution about prayer I maintain is a prosperity-type belief in prayer. For instance, people may genuinely believe God answers prayers for those who contain stronger or better faith.
This is not the Gospel.
Frankly, God answers the prayers of imperfect and small-minded faith. God answers the prayers of long-time believers. God answers the prayers of whomever and whatever He desires. This is where the Calvinist in me takes over. God is sovereign. God is in control. He answers and doesn’t answer prayer based almost entirely on His will and His glory to be revealed.
In my own life, I’ve used a similar approach to prayer that Groeschel uses. Frankly, I’m not someone who has ever been gifted in locking himself in a room to pray for two hours. Instead, I am someone who may spend 15-30 minutes in the morning praying, and then use a “laser” prayer approach to the rest of the day. I fire off prayers throughout most of the day like tiny lasers penetrating the heavens and the souls of others.
Another way I pray is by using the Daily Office or Divine Hours prayers. I love the fixed time and beauty of the written words. For a great resource, use http://www.universalis.com/-700/lauds.htm
I know this may be a bit contradicting to what I wrote above about how and why God answers prayers, but since I became more of an open theist (belief that the future is partially open and partially decided), my prayer life has dramatically changed. I truly and honestly believe that I make a difference with my prayers. I used to ask the question: Why should I pray if God already has determined what is going to happen? Now, I pray no matter if God has left it open for determination or if he has already determined the outcome.
Here’s a sample of what I pray for daily:
* Protection from evil forces against my house, my family (Emily), and myself. I pray against demonic and evil forces, asking Jesus to bind them up, cast them as far as the east is from the west, and to replace it with health and fruit of the Spirit.
* For God to do whatever He needs to do in me so He can do whatever He needs to do through me (Thanks Mike Bradley for this one!).
* For God’s will to be done.
* Against laziness and for openness to the leadings of the Spirit.
* For the Kingdom to come in my life, the church, the city, and my marriage.
* For my extended family and any specific person God places on my heart.
* For God to break my heart for what breaks his.
* For my prayer partner, John Sharpe.
Do I believe in prayer? Most certainly.
Is it still confusing and mind-boggling? Most certainly.
Does it make all the difference? Yes.
So pray. Be honest. Be open. Pray continually. Give up control. Trust God. Be imperfect. Be bold. Pray specifically. View it as life-changing – for yourself and for others.
May you come to experience the humility, grace, sacrifice, love, and joy found in communicating with God.