Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Prayer, Part 2: Apprehensive to Pray?

photo by Flickr.com
Years ago I met with a woman in our church who was eager to learn about missions. She was (is) a prayer warrior and I wanted to learn more about prayer. Dave and I were working with a mission agency at the time and the trade-off seemed ideal. I knew I needed to learn more about intercessory prayer, I knew I should learn more but part of me didn't want to have anything to do with prayer. But I overcame my selfish side and we met weekly, going through several books on prayer for the world. We ended up traveling together to Central Asia on a Prayer Journey. It was a growing time.

You see, prayer intimidated me. I saw prayer as a time of stripping away my veneer of self-sufficiency. Not only was I revealing my needs and requests to God to those who were gathered around in the prayer circle, I felt as if I was exposing part of my true sinful-self to the body when I prayed aloud in a group-regardless of what I was praying. I felt like a fraud, coming before God, like I could, like I had the right, like I was clean enough to approach his throne with my requests. I felt like a hypocrite. I knew I was none of those things (clean or righteous...still am a hypocrite though) and I felt so fake. Reading through books on grace, singing hymns and reading scripture, I think I understand I bit better that that is exactly where God wants me to be - before his throne. Unlike Kind Xerxes and Esther, I have no doubt that God will listen to my request.

I wonder if others are reluctant to pray in public because of these same feelings. I'm teaching our confirmation class and my students almost without fail will not pray in a large group. Dave and I started a prayer time in the evening and we're the only ones attending. When Dave asks others to pray in church there's a big pause and ah, well, ah, no. I know folks can be shy but is there something deeper, something that taps into our misunderstanding of God's grace that causes public prayer to be a major stress issue?

I'm not saying I have this thing licked. Gosh, if I were at a presbytery meeting you probably wouldn't find me praying in the pulpit, let alone in a large group. I still feel a bit like a charlatan in prayer. But then I guess that reveals I am still praying to the crowd and not to my King. Ahh, there's the rub. What is prayer? Conversation with my Maker. And only to Him. When I close my eyes, sink into the reality of what prayer is all about, lose sight of who is beside me, in front of me, then my prayers transcend and in some ways I find myself praying back what I sense the Holy Spirit giving me. The words, the groans, the supplications begin with Him and flow through me back to Him. I am just a conduit of His, repeating His desire, His will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And often times knowing I know so little, my understanding is so limited that I find my prayers simply, Thy will be done!

The wondrous thing about prayer is that we are totally unworthy to approach, by our own works or faith. It is only because of what Jesus did on the cross, repairing our broken relationship and mediating between us and the Father so the Father sees the Son when we come before Him. This is Good News indeed.

"Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the Kingdom. If you may have everything by asking in His Name, and nothing without asking,
I beg you to see how absolutely vital
prayer is." Charles Spurgeon

1 comment:

Podcastin' Cyndi said...

I just remembered that you had a blog, thanks to your great comments on Two Edge Talk. Wow, what a blog it is! In one of our podcasts (maybe this last one? they all run together!), Tim talks about being "transparent" - I see this quality in you. Though you struggle with feeling worthy to approach the Throne, the flip side of this is a humility that God cannot resist - it is a recognition that He is sovereign, and we are not, a very rare commodity these days. I so value what you have to say - thanks for taking time to share it with the world.

Peace be with you,