How Should We Pray?


Bob told me I should blog, so, here goes…..

I have been reading Foster’s Celebration of Discipline, I appreciate his view that we often pray “tentatively, half-hoping, if it be Thy will” prayers, rather than boldly pray.  I had an experience several months ago concerning this very issue.  My mother died this past December after a fairly short illness.  One week before she died, a friend texted that her mother was very sick and may not make it.  I had heard she was going for medical testing, but heard nothing more, so this came as a shock.  Even though she was my friend’s mother, she was much younger than my mother, and was lively and vivacious, so I thought of her as a friend as well the mother of a friend.  I began to pray earnestly that God would have mercy on my friend and her mother, that they wouldn’t need to go through this.  Sadly, within 24 hours, she was gone.  It turns out that she had a very serious form of cancer, and hadn’t yet been diagnosed before her body gave out.  My own mother was at end of life and this was crushing. 

A month or so later,  I was relating this to a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while.  My mother’s death was very difficult for me, and my feelings and nerves were still raw.  As I was relating the events of the past couple of months, I mentioned that I asked God to please have mercy on my friend and her mother, that they would be spared this grief. Unbelievably, he began to reprimand me for not praying, “if it be Thy will” and accusing me of telling God what to do!  I told him that it was a moment of grief and God understands our shortcomings and intercedes for us when we don’t know how to pray (Rom. 8:26).  He wasn’t convinced, and told me that if I was spiritually mature, it would have come naturally to pray, “If it be Thy will”, even in the midst of shock and disbelief. 

I realized that he was really missing grace-filled empathy which I needed at the moment.  When I boldly asked God to spare someone’s life, but my prayer didn’t fit what he believed the Bible teaches about prayer, the ‘letter of the Law’ took precedence.  It seems to me that the only way we know if our prayers are in God’s will is by the answer and we shouldn’t be afraid to “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”  (Heb. 4:16)

This incident brings to mind Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians: “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”  (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

Knowledge is a good thing and God gifts the Church with teachers.  However, if that knowledge isn’t hemmed and softened by love, what good is it?  We become like darts or a sword bruising the bewildered.  God wants us to pray because it is an important part of our union with Him, in feeling His presence and power.  God tells us to ask for what we need (Matthew 7:7-11; James 1:5; 4:2) and Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven”.  Is this something we tack onto our prayers, or is this a lifestyle of desiring God’s will in everything, both in our lives and in the world?  When we are living this way, we will pray confidently, in the power of the Holy Spirit, believing that God is pleased with our prayers and will answer them, according to His perfect will.  The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective (James 5:16b).