Monday, October 10, 2011

Pray Largely

Finally coming out of the dry season here.  And no, I'm not speaking of the weather, because that would be just tacky, given that I live in the rain-drenched Pacific Northwest, where it rains a whole lot more than it's dry.  In fact, it rains so much here, our lakes are so deep, that water is shipped from these parts to other real drought-ravaged parts of the country.  So to ever talk about a 'dry season', even when we barely had about a month of summer which unfortunately didn't arrive until September and it already over (dang it, anyway) is more than poor form but sick and wrong.

No, I'm talking about a dry season spiritually.  Emotionally as well, I suppose one might say, though Beve would say there have been plenty of water works in my emotions--waterworks to go along with the fireworks. Yep, he's loved it.  Nevertheless, I've been a sack of dry bones for quite a spell now (whatever a spell is).  The toll of caring for the elders, worrying about the son and living in a crowded house of people has wrecked havoc on my usually luxurious time with God.  Time I've grown used to over the forty years of wandering with Him through the various deserts and not-deserts of my life.  I am famously NOT disciplined when it comes to most things in life--exercise, eating habits, etc. (and yes, you can tell looking at me that this is unfortunately true), but spiritual disciplines have usually appealed to the scholar/student in me.

But not in the dry-as-a-skeleton seasons of life.  Not when praying becomes foxhole-like in nature then swings across the no-man's land to a different foxhole about a different war.  Between the two, in that no-man's land, I simply refuse to let my mind think about what worries me the most.  I'm talking here, for those of you who know, about the very serious situation with J, and the equally troubling (or at least time- and mind-consuming) situation with my in-laws.  Foxhole prayers have been going on as long as there have been people on this earth picking up weapons of one kind or another and waging battles against each other.  Or battles against themselves. It might just be that Abel prayed so when Cain came at him in the very first conflict. "Help me, God, help me."  Such prayers are knee-jerk cries for help in the gravest of situations, from ICU waiting rooms to dark alleys in inner-cities and every place between.  Where we hurt we cry out.  And God hears such prayers.  I believe this as surely as I believe He created us on the sixth day with mouths to speak and hearts to bleed. And the moment the first of us left the safety of that Garden, we began a long siege in the foxhole.

However, I've never really felt that such prayers were what He really meant when He said, "Pray without ceasing."  Obviously.  He's glad to hear us whenever we pray, but the examples Jesus gives of real prayer have little to do with foxholes and a whole lot to do with real persistence.  With the kind of persistence foxhole praying is the very antithesis of.  This is what I've forgotten in this dry worrisome season. Such foxhole prayers actually limit God's ability to work, by the very nebulousness of the request.  "Help me, Lord," could mean just about anything.  Really. Now you will be saying, 'But He knows what you're asking,' and that's true. But God--our Sovereign, all KNOWING God--has chosen to impact the world and our very lives by our earnest, specific prayers. 

Jeremiah 29: 12-13 "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
John 14: 13-14 "And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it."
John 16: 23-24 "Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive and your joy will be complete."

And then there's this 'hit me on the head' passage from Philippians, that I really should remember but don't. I MUST hear it.  Learn it, DO it.  Philippians 4: 6-7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situations, by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God, and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."

CS Lewis says it does no good to pray for object A when our whole minds are really focused on object B.  No, we must pray what we really feel. Too often, lately, this has been part of the problem for me.  I want to sound all humble and surrendered and devout, even.  The truth is, I want my son to be healthy in every way, and I want him to be whole spiritually.  I don't want to surrender him to God's will, but to impact God's will. Instead of living in the foxhole, the persistent widow should be my model.  And as I've begun to practice this persistence, all areas of praying have opened up.  

And just this morning I felt these strong words from God to pass on to you.  "Pray largely."  Don't be wimps.  Be willing to wrestle with God for those you love, to fight for them, even argue with Him on their behalves.  The amazing truth is that He asks us to pray, He asks us to change the world, to be changed and--oh the incredible thought of this!--even to change HIM by our prayers.  It's true. Read about Abraham arguing with God about Sodom and Gomorrah. Read about Moses changing God's mind when He was ready to give up on the Israelites in the desert. Yes, the amazing truth is that God allows us to change Him by our prayers.  He set it up that way.  So get after it. Go to it. Like it's your job. 

Because it is.
Pray largely.

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