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Thursday, May 24, 2012

May 2012

How is your prayer life? I imagine that this question evokes different responses from many of you. For some, you may wish you had more time to pray. Others will find this question very convicting as your prayer life is virtually nonexistent. Still others think of that time of day they have set aside for prayer and would answer by saying they are, at best, pleased with their prayer life or, at worst, wishing they could stay more focused when praying. If you are like me, it is seemingly a mixture of all of these answers.

I don't think prayer is easy. I often hear people say that prayer comes naturally to the Christian. It is the language of their heart that just overflows into the ears of their gracious Father. I envy those people. It is not that easy for me. Be it sin, laziness, business, or distraction, I struggle with prayer. I struggle setting (and keeping) a time to pray. When I do pray, I have hard time focusing. When I am focused, I worry that I am praying the wrong thing or in the wrong way. Nothing causes me to question my motives before God more than prayer. I wonder, "Am I praying this selfishly or am I honoring God? Is this for me or my neighbor? Will God hear me if my motives are wrong?" Then there is the struggle with how my prayers will be answered. Will God say yes or no? I know all the clichés about how God sometimes says "yes," sometimes "no," and sometimes "wait." But clichés don't give me the comfort or security I seem to want from prayer. Thus, the overflowing language of my heart in prayer just demonstrates that my heart is overflowing with laziness, doubt, and uncertainty. In a word: sin. Even my prayers are marred by, well, me! My prayer life is messy. Can you relate?

And yet, all of this is the very thing that drives me to pray, to cry out to God for mercy. God is always standing ready with mercy. I used to hear hymns singing about the sweetness of prayer and the other-worldly experiences people have with prayer. But, as I go to the Scriptures, I find that messy prayers are actually the norm. Perhaps a great example of what prayer looks like is God's encounter with Jacob in Genesis 32:22-11 where Jacob wrestles with God. That night, at the end of the wrestling match, God gave Jacob the name "Israel" which means, "he who wrestles with God." God's relationship with His Old Testament people is one of wrestling. God calls Moses, and Moses refuses to do God's will, Job cries out to God constantly from the pit of despair, the Psalms are filled with prayers of doubt, confusion, and frustration. The list goes on. It is the same for us.

Now, the messiness of our prayers is not comforting unless we know the One with whom we wrestle. And we do! Jesus is the one who brings us comfort in prayer. First, because He has washed our sins clean away in His blood, so that we can enter God's throne room with our prayers and He will hear them like a loving Father. Second, because Jesus himself stands before God on our behalf, the Spirit carries our prayers, and what is more, prays for us before God! Romans 8:26 says, "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express." Even when we don't know how to pray, the Holy Spirit himself is interceding for us! If you don't know how to pray, take heart, for God the Holy Spirit is praying for you! Amazing!

Our prayers are messy and stained with sin because they are coming from people that are messy and stained by sin. But, our God is gracious! He has washed us clean in the blood of His Son so we can present our requests to Him as a pleasing sacrifice! Prayer is messy, frustrating, and challenging business. And God is graciously listening!

Pastor Bob

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