Difference-Making Prayers

b1bec95e2d0afe07bb1cc4b8206a1c86The Lord, the God of Israel, says: “Because you prayed to Me…” (Isaiah 37:21a)

Our prayers make a difference.

That’s not to claim we always get what we want. But when we seek God as we pray, we step toward lining up with Him. Our prayers make a difference, not just in the context but in the relationship.

We don’t have to apologetically back into prayer. “I’m so sorry to bother you, God. This is such a little thing. I know you’ve heard it before.” Oh, He still listens to us regardless of how we approach Him. Starting somewhere is better than not starting at all. Approaching Him in any way is better than not approaching Him at all.

But we can be bold. We can declare who He is. We can set aside our insecurities, because the One we’re to talking to is our security.

And He says, “Because you prayed to Me…”

Progress. Opposition. Strategy.

prayer-changes-meSo we rebuilt the wall until the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had the will to keep working.

When Sanballat, Tobiah, and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the repair to the walls of Jerusalem was progressing and that the gaps were being closed, they became furious. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw it into confusion. So we prayed to our God and stationed a guard because of them day and night. (Nehemiah 4:6-10)

Progress. Opposition. Strategy.

That’s often the pattern. We make progress together, then there’s opposition. How we respond matters. Some give up. Some get stubborn and forge forward without any change, which can be damaging, and some ignore there’s an issue. Some get manipulative. I suppose all of those approaches are strategies.

But prayer, then response to that prayer, seems like the best strategy to me. We don’t simply pray to get affirmed or to feel better, and we can’t just leave it as “we prayed.” Prayer changes us even when the situation doesn’t change. And change demands a response.

Start with prayer, then continue to pray with the willingness to change with action, humility, and boldness.

A Humble Prayer

imagesBut who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? For everything comes from You, and we have given You only what comes from Your own hand. For we live before You as foreigners and temporary residents in Your presence as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. Yahweh our God, all this wealth that we’ve provided for building You a house for Your holy name comes from Your hand; everything belongs to You. I know, my God, that You test the heart and that You are pleased with what is right. I have willingly given all these things with an upright heart, and now I have seen Your people who are present here giving joyfully and willingly to You. Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our ancestors, keep this desire forever in the thoughts of the hearts of Your people, and confirm their hearts toward You. Give my son Solomon a whole heart to keep and to carry out all Your commands, Your decrees, and Your statutes, and to build the temple for which I have made provision. (1 Chronicles 29:14-19)

What a prayer of offering, dedication, or commitment. What if we humbly approached God with this prayer each and every day? What if this was purely expressed from the core of our beings?

How might God change you through it? And how would it change your faith in Him?

What Prayer Reveals

2-sam-7-28-ww-mf-9xThis prayer of David’s reveals much about him, God, and their relationship. It is rich, and when we read it, it can almost seem as if we are intruding on something private.

Then King David went in, sat in the Lord’s presence, and said,

Who am I, Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me this far? What You have done so far was a little thing to You, Lord God, for You have also spoken about Your servant’s house in the distant future. And this is a revelation for mankind, Lord GodWhat more can David say to You? You know Your servant, Lord GodBecause of Your word and according to Your will, You have revealed all these great things to Your servant.

This is why You are great, Lord God. There is no one like You, and there is no God besides You, as all we have heard confirms. And who is like Your people Israel? God came to one nation on earth in order to redeem a people for Himself, to make a name for Himself, and to perform for them great and awesome acts, driving out nations and their gods before Your people You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt. You established Your people Israel to be Your own people forever, and You, Lord, have become their God.

Now, Lord God, fulfill the promise forever that You have made to Your servant and his house. Do as You have promised, so that Your name will be exalted forever, when it is said, “The Lord of Hosts is God over Israel.” The house of Your servant David will be established before You since You, Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, have revealed this to Your servant when You said, “I will build a house for you.” Therefore, Your servant has found the courage to pray this prayer to You. Lord God, You are God; Your words are true, and You have promised this grace to Your servant. Now, please bless Your servant’s house so that it will continue before You forever. For You, Lord God, have spoken, and with Your blessing Your servant’s house will be blessed forever. (2 Samuel 7:18-29)

I don’t know that anyone feels fully confident in their prayer life. Even when we are confident in God, we don’t always feel confident in ourselves. That’s okay. When we claim the truth of who God is and speak with Him with authenticity, it reveals a lot about us, God, and our relationship. And when that happens, we grow, because we’re willing to see gaps in our faith and let God fill them well.

Sit in Prayer

pray continually copySometimes I get tired of all the advice on prayer. Not that I haven’t read good books on prayer, but sometimes, I get to the end and have lots of ideas but am still no closer to living a deeper prayer life. In fact, perhaps sometimes we make matters worse by reading so many suggestions, because we just can’t seem to apply them well enough or often enough.

People are often ready with quick advice to “just talk to God.” I get it. I really do. But some of us are more comfortable with God than others. Some of us just don’t know how to begin, what to say, what not to say, or how to stay focused. Some people aren’t even sure God exists, let alone will listen or care.

I love praying and have grown in prayer through the years. I’ve used all kinds of tools and suggestions, and many of them have helped me, but none so much as to simply sitting in God’s presence.

I don’t always have to know what to say, not because I’m overwhelmed by needs but because I’m in awe of and satisfied with sitting in His presence.

Try it. Just sit. Savor. Steep. Enjoy. Receive and give without saying a word.

Praying Beyond My Ability

8442a97f5e87ffab001111e8f7b1068bI’m not an artist, so I relate to the comparison between what I see in my head and what ends up on paper. We can all relate in one area or another: writing, running, makeup or hair, decorating, or crafts of just about any variety. Our very best attempt seems like a huge flop. Our best just isn’t enough.

Then there is prayer.

It is this same concept but in reverse. When we start with our best, even though it might feel messy and awkward and insufficient to us, God takes the best we have to offer and makes it grand. When we take our pure heart to Him, revealing our trust, He creates a masterpiece. The result is more beautiful and complete than we can imagine.

It is only possible in our humble, vulnerable obedience.

The Blessings You Don’t See

There is so much around us that we take for granted, neglecting to notice the blessings we have every day. We seem to notice so many blessings when something fails; instead of a blessing, we see an inconvenience. We often want God to move in our ways instead of letting us look through His perspective. We see what is broken that we want Him to fix. We see shortcomings that we want Him to stretch and increase. We see an inconvenience that we want Him to take away instead of realizing the blessing in the delay and provision through it.

We need to focus not as much on asking God to bless us but to open our eyes to see the blessings He has given us.

We’re surrounded. Yes, there are the big things like a job, family, and a place to live. But there are so many smaller things, that when we begin to notice them, they create huge piles of blessings that help us slow down and notice more and more.

Consider the ease by which you can access places, information, basic (and not so basic) needs and wants.

Consider the encouragement you can find in the people around you, including the choices you have for connections and inspiration online.

Consider colors, textures, and scents that spur good memories or give you a moment of inspiration.

Even when we pray for the rain to stop when it dampens and pools around us, we can appreciate the nourishment and wonder of it.

Even when we pray for a loved one to get better, we can be thankful for the care he has access to, as well as the people who surround him, or the impact he has had on others’ lives.

Even when something breaks at what seems to be the most inconvenient time, we can recognize how the long list of other things that we have seem to be holding together, in many cases, longer than expected.

Even when our plans get cancelled, we can appreciate the opportunity for downtime or for reaching out to someone else in need.

Even when life doesn’t go the way we planned, we can trust God is well aware and is working even if we can’t see or understand the details.

We can trust Him as more than just the “go to guy” when we’re in need. We can let Him define our needs. We can let Him work outside the box of what we want or think He can do. We can let Him be God, and let Him define blessings, and commit to giving in our perspective for His.