Fostering a “Let’s Pray Right Now” Culture

prayerIt is under the vaguely pleasant tingling of a mild sunburn (youth group car wash) that I write to you this morning, dear readers, and I wish to talk about a “let’s pray right now” culture.

The other day, I walked past this guy speaking with a friend in church and saying “…let’s pray about it right now”. Heads bowed, eyes closed, right there.

I don’t know what the need was, but I know this is quite commonplace in my church. Right there, right then, in the middle of everything going on, we will often pray for each other’s needs, even if it is a remote uncle with an optimistic minor surgery. Not just because it comforts the person whose uncle it is, but because we believe prayer makes a difference. It is one of my greatest joys in belonging to this church family.

I used to think it was commonplace throughout Christendom.

But during my travels, I discovered differently. I found churches where apathy met even dire prayer requests. I found believers who, trying far too hard to sound smart, waxed philosophical in debates about whether it actually bore any power to pray for someone you didn’t know.

But most of all, I found countless promises of “I’ll be praying about that”.

Why say that? Why not do it right there? Embarrassment? Inconvenience? What great cost is charged to you to obey God’s command to pray without ceasing? And are we so boorish that we won’t drop a friend (or even a stranger) the slightest goodwill?

The other big problem with this, of course, is that we rarely ever do pray. We forget. We go on with our daily grind and forget. Don’t we?

My father taught me to keep a prayer list so that I wouldn’t forget. So, of course, I forget to keep a list.

Which is doubly ironic given that we all have electronic list-making tools in our pockets these days.

I don’t want to live in oblivion any more. I want to be intentional, determined, and opposed to laziness in my prayer life. We owe it to our brothers and sisters in Christ as an obedience to our command to love; we owe it to the lost as a witness; and we owe it to God, for it proves that we actually take gifts like prayer seriously.

Let us foster a “let’s pray right now” culture in our own spheres. It isn’t going to kill us. In fact, it might save someone.

When God Actually Answers

rainOur valley has been choked with thick, disheartening smoke for the better part of a month as our beloved Glacier National Park burns. It’s a difficult fire to fight; Lake McDonald is a bowl, collecting smoke and giving it nowhere to disperse. Aircraft have reported being unable to even find the fire, so concentrated is the smoke.

So, yesterday morning in church, we asked God to deliver the goods. We asked for rain.

He answered. That very afternoon, a cold front moved in, bringing a constant drizzle worthy of Seattle.

Today it not only continued, but turned into snow at the higher elevations. In August. Granted, August snow isn’t actually unusual in Glacier. But the timing and location could not have been better.

And I’m…kinda flabbergasted.

Disbelieving.

Happy, but disbelieving.

I feel the same way about God healing my knee during a recent hiking trip. It wasn’t the Advil. I know what my knee feels like on just Advil. This wasn’t that. There was no pain at all, not even 1/10. I could walk in total confidence.

And again I’m…disbelieving. Did that really happen?

This is revealing a lot in my soul. Maybe it’s just the uncomfortable questions of Why not all those other prayers back through…I dunno, my entire life?

Or maybe it’s something more.

Continue reading

“Your Prayer is Awaiting Moderation”

waiting“Your post is awaiting moderation” is something we bloggers see a lot.

When we comment on someone else’s blog, depending on their settings, our comments have to wait for their approval before they’re displayed.

Ever felt like your prayer is awaiting moderation? in heaven? For, like, decades?

Prayers have four answers: Yes, wait-then-yes, no, wait-then-no. In descending order of fun.

I once found it tempting to think that at least “wait” didn’t mean “no”. But I then found that…no, that’s not how it works. Sometimes he has us wait – for years – and then says no.

And that’s rough.

It’s one thing to get a “no” right off the bat. At least you can deal with it then, get past the disappointment. But years of waiting and then a no? It feels almost cruel. Hopes gotten up and then dumped.

We can dodge these unpleasant truths if we want. We can pretend that “God is too good to waste our faith”, as some preachers will insist – that long-nurtured prayers are guaranteed the answer we want. We can pretend there are no ill thoughts towards God lurking in our hearts.

But we probably wouldn’t be honest.

I’m committed to the idea that God cares about our heart’s desires. When we read stories like the twelve-year wait of the woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 9), or the one crippled by evil for eighteen, or the man invalid for thirty-eight (that’s longer than I’ve been alive, people), you remember that God’s miraculous gifts can still come for you, even now.

But even if the answer will be eventually revealed as a no, we have a choice of how we live until then.

Continue reading

He Hasn’t Forgotten Our Frailty

deadflowerIf you’re asking “Just what is God like?”, few books of the Bible answer more directly and generously than the Psalms.

Yesterday I was reading through Psalm 103 (one of my favorites) and found myself stopping on verses 13-16:

As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.

I stopped reading. A lump had taken up residence in my throat. Yes. This is me. Dust. Temporary. Fragile. It’s what I am, and moreover, it was how I’ve been feeling lately.

And God knows.

He knows.

Continue reading

Co-Opted by Fear: Adventures in Overthinking Prayer, Part II

fear(This ended up becoming a series. Here’s Part 1 and Part 3.)

The Neurotic Self-Examination Department is still hard at work, somewhere back there in my brain, outperforming their quotas for the 131rd quarter straight. I’d love to know what productivity methods they’re using, because I could make millions sharing them – I just cannot stop thinking about stuff. For example…should I include the nine months before my birth in that quarter count? If so, it’d be 134.

Anyway…

My pastor belted out another terrific sermon last night. I could sum it up in one sentence of his: “Gratitude doesn’t just sit there. It accomplishes something in our hearts. Gratitude gives way to hope.” It was about reminding oneself of God’s previous works and displays of power in our lives to gather hope for the future – relying on his prior and proven faithfulness to reassure ourselves for tomorrow.

And  thought, that doesn’t work for me. Not for matters in this life.

Continue reading

When You Don’t Feel Like Praying for Rain Again

rainSmoke covers the Montana Rockies. Every thunderstorm that passes through seems to touch off new blazes, which now surround my town on three sides so that the wind can’t easily clear out the smoke. Last night, flakes of ash were drifting out of the sky.

So you could say that, like Elijah, we’re praying for rain.

In the last few days, I’ve prayed for the safety of the firefighters putting their lives on the line to contain the flames. I’ve also asked for your prayer.

But last night, when I realized it had been a whole day since I prayed, something in me quailed.

Ugh. I don’t feel like praying tonight. Not again.

And that’s exactly how I knew that I needed to keep praying.

Continue reading

Irritated by God’s Glory: Adventures in Overthinking Prayer, Part III

I wasn’t planning to make this a series. This should be the final installment. Feel free to read Part 1 and Part 2 if you’re really jonesing for a flying leap down the rabbit hole.

irritated

I used to be really irritated whenever someone mentioned God’s glory.

It took years of reflection, but thanks to God’s kind insight, I figured out why.

Part of the problem was that whenever I heard “glory of God”, I heard distance. Detachment. Dismissal. A far-off God who couldn’t care less about my heart or my issues, who basks in a shower of others’ praises while I toil down here, forgotten, or kinda tolerated. I feared getting lost in the shuffle.

I believe this is actually an enormous conundrum for my generation, one I’d like to talk about eventually – the collision of soli Deo gloria with the masses of millennials wounded by damaged families, abuse, neglect, self-hatred, addiction, and every other ill stemming from being grandchildren of the sixties, and then being told that a Christ-centered gospel means that their struggles are unworthy of attention. (Yes, we hear that. All the time.)

For now, the irony is, that definition of soli Deo gloria doesn’t glorify God. Scripture tells us instead of a gracious, compassionate, and involved God who goes to great lengths to come through, even arranging for trials so that we can learn of his power (2 Cor. 1:9). He is repeatedly described as a healer all through the holy book. It’s no wonder that many of my quiet times with God were unsatisfying and tense; I didn’t have the right image of him. Approaching God without accounting for every aspect of his character is a pointless exercise, and affords him no glory.

This has been a relief. God has reconciled vast territories of my heart to him through these Scriptural discoveries and opened new avenues of worship and intimacy.

But there was a deeper issue.

Continue reading