The Mystery of Prayer

June 26, 2009 at 8:38 PM

Newer Version of Book

Newer Version of Book

Older Version of Book

Older Version of Book

I am in the process of reading a great book on prayer.  It’s called the God Who Hears, by W. Bingham Hunter.  I don’t know about you, but sometimes prayer is difficult for any number of reasons.

I think it is most difficult (for me at least), because it seems like you need to know SO much about God and the Scripture before you can truly honestly feel as though you are praying “correctly.”

Hunter covers areas like:

  • Are faithful prayers always answered?
  • Why pray to a God who lets people hurt?
  • Does prayer change God’s mind?
  • What can I tell an all-knowing God?
  • How can I be intimate with an invisible God?

There are a number of areas that are very important to me in the book; things I need to understand. What makes it difficult for me is praying to Someone who is invisible. This part in Bingham’s book is something I can relate to:

We pray to the God we can’t see in the company of people we can see.  Naturally we are concerned about what impression our prayer is making on those people.  So we tend to pray to the group which is visible rather than to God who is invisible.  We are also prone to focus on how our words might impress God if  He were like those we are praying with.  And even when praying alone we wonder, Do I sound sincere?  Is He getting the point that I’m in a really desperate situation?  I wonder if it would help if I got down on my knees.  Each of us struggles to reconcile truths like “God is Spirit” with the more tangible material of daily life.

The chapter on praying to an all-knowing God is excellent.  How do you pray to someone who knows everything and who has all things worked out (events, scenarios; we’re not puppets though)?  It is daunting to say the least.  How do you know how He will respond to your prayers?  Well, we don’t really, which is why we should really take our cue from Jesus in Gethsemane, who ended His prayers there with “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.”

But notice that Jesus did not do that all the time.  There were plenty of times when Jesus knew what the Father’s will was at that point.  How?  He spent a great deal of time in prayer just talking with the Father and He also spent a good deal of time in the Word, learning.  This is why when Satan tempted Jesus, He knew immediately when He was trying to twist Scripture and Jesus’ response back to Satan were authoritative because not only was Jesus the Word, but He knew the Word and He brandished the Word like the weapon it was when the enemy approached.

If you’re like me, you probably need to become better equipped at praying.  Hunter’s book will certainly help point the way.  The other two things we all need to do is simply spend more time praying and more time in the Word.

I remember last year when I received a phone call from my sister’s son-in-law in Georgia.  It was odd that he would call me and as soon as I recognized his voice, I knew something was up.  Turns out my sister was in the hospital and things did not look good.  I flew out there the next day and she was in the I.C.U., in a coma.  I had spent all day praying that God would heal her; raise her up off her bed.  “Please God, don’t let her die!”  I remember finding other Christians at the hospital that I did not even know and they prayed with me.  Between their faith and mine, how could we fail?

I prayed over the next few days as things remained the same, with little change.  For some reason, I had reached a point of thinking that she was not going to be going back to her house that she loved so much.  It was just different.  I found that I could not even force myself to feel as though there was any hope.  I sighed, and prayed something like, “Okay, Lord.  If You are going to be calling her home to you, would you please allow her to open her eyes and be able to look at me – focused – so that I can say good-bye, knowing that she will have heard me?”

I went to sleep and went through the same routine the next day, spending most of the day at the hospital.  My brother-in-law, my nephew and I were just back from having lunch and had gathered in my sister’s room.  The nurse came in with us and did some routine tests; felt her skin, used the stethoscope to listen to her heart (she was hooked up to a bunch of machines, so I wondered why she was doing that, but I’m sure she had her reasons).  She then took out a small flashlight, lifted up my sisters eyelids and shined the flashlight in, and then moved it away quickly.  This would allow her to see if her pupils dilated at all because of the light.

There was no movement and in fact, her eyes were both pointing way down into the bottom portion of her eyelids.  I asked the nurse what that meant.  She told me that it was not a good sign at all; no dilation, eyes drooping.  Not good.  The nurse smiled a sad little smile at me and then turned to go out.

I did the only thing I knew to do and asked the other two guys if they minded if I prayed.  No one minded, so we all closed our eyes and began praying for my sister.  During my prayer, I looked up and – I’m not sure why – but I lifted her eyelid up on her right eye.  It was weird because her right eye was no longer drooping.  In fact, it was looking at me!  So I continued praying and glanced up at her.  Both of her eyelids now were fluttering ever so slightly.  Then all of a sudden, they both opened and stared right at me.  There was an intensity in both of them.  Man, was I happy!

I started talking to her and she continued to look at me.  I knew she was focusing because her eyes did not wander and there was an intensity in her brow that had not been there moments before.  I called her husband and their son over and then after a few seconds, I left to call my wife and to give the two guys some time alone with my sister.  I felt at that time that she was going to be fine (believe it or not, I had forgotten my prayer just the night before)!

When I went back in, her eyes had closed.  In fact, they never opened again on this side of eternity.  We went home and that night at about 11:00pm, her husband got a call and we were told there had been a “change” so we headed down to the hospital immediately.  When we got there, we were informed that my sister had passed into eternity.  My heart broke and I cried like a baby.  I called my pastor who took the time to pray with me over the phone and we waited until the people from the funeral home arrived.

It was not until the next day that I remembered my prayer in which I asked God to open her eyes and let me say good-bye.  Even though I did not say good-bye to my sister, I know that God gave me a wonderful gift; a gift that I will always remember.  He allowed her to open her eyes, so that she and I could “connect” one last time before He took her home to be with Him.

I miss my sister terribly at times, but I know that she is in the best hands possible.  I also know that I will see her again and will share her joy and she mine.  God did not answer my first prayer about raising my sister back to health.  He had set her time of departing in eternity past and nothing was going to change it.  In His love for me though, He provided me with a cherished memory that no one can take from me.

I think that is the most difficult part of prayer.  God knows what is best and we do not.  This is probably why for those times when we do not know what His will is, that we end our prayers with “Not my will, but thine be done.”

Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Prophecy.

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