Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday Scriptures #6-Desert Times of Faith in Prayer

Pray Without Ceasing

Praying Hands
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The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know.  I Timothy 2:1 
                                    (The Message)

Do you ever feel like your prayers stop at the ceiling? Or that you pray and pray and pray about a personal matter or for a situation that involves someone you love or care about and the situation never seems to change? At times like these, believers in prayer can get discouraged and wonder, "what's the use?" It is like trudging through a dry desert with hot sands underfoot. Our mouths are dry and dusty and each step seems to take more energy than we have available. We long for the healing of cool water on our tongue but there is none to drink. We wonder where the strength will come to continue onward. It would be so much easier to just lay down and give in to the hot desert around us than to keep on going. 

I've heard many thoughts about these "desert times" of faith over the years. Many people say that there are three answers to prayer: "Yes, No and Not now."  Others have added a little humor by saying the answers to prayer are: "Yes, No and You've Got To Be Kidding!" When a believer is hurting or watching someone they love and care about struggle, though, there is sometimes no humor to be found in why a prayer is perceived to not be answered. The worries and hurt can be too great. 

I believe that Jesus knew about these "desert times" of prayer when He walked on this Earth. Scriptures tell us that on the night before he was sent to the cross He suffered great despair in prayer. In Luke 22, we read that Jesus went to the Mount of Olives to pray asking God to, "remove this cup from me." As Jesus continued to pray, His prayers became so intense that "Sweat, wrung from him like drops of blood, poured off his face." (The Message). Now, I have often struggled with prayer, but at no time have I sweat like drops of blood in prayer! Such intensity is hard to imagine. 

In reading about prayer over the years, I have been interested in learning about prayer as a conversation. So much of my prayer can be "asking" but there are so many other facets to prayer. Asking is certainly a part of prayer and we want to take our concerns to the Lord. But, I am learning that prayer is also about praise and thanksgiving and gratitude and joy. And, the most important aspect of prayer to me...and one that I have often missed over the listening in prayer. If prayer is a conversation, and conversations tend to be two-way interactions, then I must quiet myself enough to listen. What is God wanting to say back to me? How is He answering my thoughts and questions and concerns and doubts and, yes, anger? 

I'm not certain that prayer is meant to be easy. It certainly wasn't for Jesus. I'm not certain that we are meant to get all of our answers right away. Perhaps some answers will not come until we meet the Lord. But, just like the comfort of a friend who sits with us, prayer is a time of companionship. A time to know that we don't walk alone is this world, even when times are hard and even when it doesn't feel like our prayers go past the ceiling. There is companionship even in silence. And what feels like silence to us....does not mean there is silence on God's end of things. Let's go back to when Jesus was sweating in prayer. From a human perspective, it might seem that Jesus was alone in His misery. But scriptures tell us that, "At once an angel from heaven was at his side, strengthening him." And what came next? "He prayed on all the harder." 

Friends, we are never alone in prayer. Even when it feels that way. Our desert times of faith are not unknown to the Lord, for He has experienced them as well. In Jan Karon's books, Father Tim and his wife, Cynthia, would often pray what they called, "the prayer that never fails." It is a prayer that Jesus himself prayed that night on the Mount of Olives. And it is a prayer that removes the worry away from waiting for answers of "yes, no, not now or, even, you've got to be kidding!" It may sound a bit simplistic when we are worried or hurting or doubting....but there is great wisdom in simplicity. The "prayer that never fails" goes like this: "Lord, not my will but thine be done." The Message translates it this way as Jesus prayed:

        "But please, not what I want. What do you want?"

Truly a prayer that never fails.....even during the dry desert times of faith.


Hills And Desert
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Lay said...

Thank you, Debbie! A great perspective and reminder to pray as a seeker of what God wants from me.and then to listen fire that answer.

Karen said...

This is so good! I pray a lot, but admit that only in recent years have I learned the listening aspect of prayer. To me, that is the most exciting part. This is not to say I'm getting immediate answers, but hearing from the Lord, speaking for myself, is accomplished most often by reading my Bible and letting the words and lessons sink in. Often I hear God through time spent in nature, when thoughts come to me as I'm quiet and listening. How wonderful to know He is always near!

Debbie Styles Life said...

Thank you, Laura. It was so good to see you today!!

Debbie Styles Life said...

Thank you, Karen. I definitely need times of quiet, either in the great outdoors or during silent time in my home, to be able to hear God's still small voice. It is hard to quiet my spirit when there is noise and distraction. It's amazing how scriptures will come to me at these times. Have a wonderful week ahead!

Keri said...

That's a good reminder to keep praying even if it feels like we're not heard. Thanks for sharing this!