Eek. I won't lie. I have often asked this question. Why pray? The first time I remember asking the question was when I was 12 yrs old. My grandmother, to whom I was very close, had just died from Leukemia. There were many other moments in my life where I questioned and doubted the validity of praying. This question was further fueled when my dad and mom both passed away within 4 years of one another.
I have had many yes answers to prayer, but I have had just as many no answers.
I thought I had worked through this question. I had all of the right answers. But, apparently, in the last few years I got a little too wrapped in how many "no" answers I had or others had experienced.
This did not become evident to me until I was sitting in a counseling session, and my dear counselor was working her magic - asking all of the wrong (yet right) questions. I wasn't taking it well, and only a little irritated at the process. She ended the session with, quite tentatively asking, "So, do you want come back again?" Of course, I don't quit that easily. And I am glad I haven't. And, I am glad she has patience with me and is willing to hear from God. Because so often He has spoken to me through those grueling sessions.
This time He helped me discover an issue that was so far buried underneath the surface of the problem we were discussing, it would have never been found by myself. But, it was this very problem that was causing quite the hang up.
It was the matter of prayer. I had somehow along the way quit praying. I mean I would say a prayer here and there. My goodness I am a licensed minister. (that was sarcastic) Truthfully, in reality, I had forgotten the true purposes of prayer - thus, all but completely drying out my prayer life. And my prayer life drying up has resulted in quite the attitude and apathetic behavior. My prayer life was beginning to be summed up as religious obligation.
God brought me back to the basics, and led me to Philippians 4:4-9.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all [comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
This is why we pray. Peace. It centers our thoughts and hearts on the right things. It brings focus in our situation. It gives us a better perspective (especially when coupled with thanksgiving).
Prayer is communion with God. It's a connection and communion that is driven by a desire to be with God. It cannot be obligation. Otherwise, it is meaningless.
It cannot be approached as a task to complete or a duty to fulfill. We cannot measure ourselves against a "prayer" standard. So, we must approach God out of a desire to know Him and learn His heart.
Prayer is abiding in Him. When we abide in Him, we are remaining in Him. And John 15 tells us that when we abide in Him, our lives bear fruit. He can do His greatest work in our lives when we are abiding in Him...and this all comes from a life and attitude of prayer.
Here is what I see in this passage.
1. Rejoice always - in other words - keep your eyes on Christ. It doesn't mean you are going to be happy all of the time. It's an attitude of believing and trusting in a good God.
2. Watch for the Lord (meaning of "the Lord is near") - When we watch for God, he always shows up. When we watch for Him, it draws us near. It brings focus. We began to remember His faithfulness, His goodness. We are reminded of WHO He is, and it is no longer about WHAT He can do for us.
3. Pray and Petition - It's not about getting an answer - it is taking action on our "watching for the Lord". When we pray - we are connecting ourselves to the Almighty, all sufficient Father. Who pours out love, grace, and mercy on our lives.
4. With Thanksgiving - This is what truly centers our thoughts and hearts. When we come before Him with gratefulness, when we choose thankfulness - we find peace. And joy. And freedom. Freedom from worry. Yes. Prayer = freedom from worry AND Prayer = Peace and Joy
5. Steady thoughts on good things - This is the result of a heart and life of prayer. A peaceful mind and spirit. Prayer guards not only our hearts, but our minds as well. Which means, if we are not praying, our minds are not guarded. Which means worry and anxiety will take place. When we choose to fix our thoughts and minds on this world and it's concerns - there will not be peace. We must pray and have an attitude of thankfulness, and there our minds will be centered on Christ and good things - and there we will find peace.
I don't know about you, but I need peace. I need my mind centered on Christ. My mind is a dangerous place, and most times, my greatest enemy. It's comforting to know that the result of a life of prayer is a peaceful mind and spirit. And, I am seeing the fruit of it!
Through prayer we receive the following:
1. Communion with God.
2. Prayer cultivates dependence on God.
3. A better understanding of His grace.
4. We receive His grace.
5. Peace, strength, joy, and more
6. Renewed faith and trust in God.
7. Security and safety
8. Confidence in our creator.
I am thankful for a God who, through His grace, will take me back to the basics. I have many situations currently in my life that are causing me to be on my knees. God - permeate this truth in my heart and mind. I can rest in quiet trust and peace. And it feels good.