Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Portraits of Prayer - Week Two

This past summer, I wrote a 7-week prayer guide entitled Portraits of Prayer. As I began investigating prayer ministry more deeply this past summer, I realized that over the years, God has already given me an abundance of insight on the subject of prayer. As I reread these insights from past blogs, I was struck at how the progression of insight fell right into place--as if it were a study guide of sorts. Taking those blogs with some additions and rewriting, I wrote Portraits of Prayer and I am happy to share it with you here over the next eight weeks. Wait, I said 7-week prayer guide didn't I? Why eight weeks then? Well, I thought it appropriate to take a short break during the week of Christmas so that we may focus on the coming of the Savior. Enjoy!


Young Man praying

digitally altered in Photoshop
Prayer Warrior or Prayer Wimp

-Excerpt from I Stand at the Door and Knock by Corrie ten Boom-
           I had been in the concentration camp a couple of weeks when I said to Betsie, my sister, "What should I do? I have a cold, I don't have a handkerchief."
      "Pray," she said, and I laughed. But she folded her hands and prayed, "Father, in Jesus' name, I pray to You, please will You give Corrie a handkerchief? She has a cold. Amen."
      Yes, I laughed again, but do you know what happened? I heard someone call my name. I went to the window where I saw a friend of mine, a fellow prisoner, who worked in the hospital.
      "Here," she said, "take this, a little gift for you."
      I opened the parcel and it was a handkerchief. "Why on earth are you giving me a handkerchief? I asked. "Did you know I had a cold?"
      "No, but I had found an old sheet, and I made a couple of handkerchiefs out if it, and then there was a voice in my heart which said: 'Take a handkerchief to Corrie ten Boom.'"
      Can you imagine what a handkerchief means to you at that moment? That handkerchief told me that there is a God in heaven who hears when one of His children is praying on a small planet, the earth, for something incredibly small. And that God in heaven tells one of His other children to give Corrie ten Boom a handkerchief.

-Excerpt from I Will Lift Up Mine Eyes by Glen Clark-
A story told by the Captain of a ship on which George Müller of Bristol was a passenger:  They had encountered a very dense fog. Because of it the captain had remained on the bridge continuously for twenty-four hours, when Mr. Müller came to him and said, “Captain, I have come to tell you that I must be in Quebec on Saturday afternoon.” When informed that it was impossible, he replied: “Very well. If this ship cannot take me, God will find some other way. I have never broken an engagement for fifty-seven years. Let us go down into the chartroom and pray.”
The captain continues the story thus: I looked at that man of God and thought to myself – What lunatic asylum could that man have come from. I never heard such a thing as this. “Mr. Müller,” I said, “do you know how dense this fog is?” “No,” he replied, “my eye is not on the density of the fog, but on the living God, who controls every circumstance of my life.” He knelt down and prayed one of those simple prayers, and when he had finished I was going to pray; but he put his hand on my shoulder and told me not to pray. “Firstly,” he said, “because you do not believe God will, and secondly, I believe God has, and there is no need whatever for you to pray about it.” I looked at him, and George Müller said, “Captain, I have known my Lord for fifty-seven years, and there has never been a single day that I have failed to get and audience with the King. Get up and open the door and you will find that the fog is gone.” I got up and the fog was indeed gone. George Müller was in Quebec Saturday afternoon for his engagement.”

 -My Confession-
I share these stories of prayer because I’ve been thinking a lot about my own prayer life. I read these stories and have no problem believing it happened just the way the stories tell. God hears our prayers, large and small, and as our loving Father, does what he does to comfort, protect, provide for and support us. I believe that whole-heartedly. I admire people like Betsie ten Boom and George Müller and desire and strive to have the intimacy with God that was so evident in their lives.

Unfortunately, I must admit that I am more like Corrie and the Captain when I look at prayer in my own life. I have experienced great miracles of healing of my pain and my past through God’s grace in faithful prayer. Of this I have no doubt. And yet for some reason, my prayers often lack the conviction shown by my heroes in these stories. Too often I pray in earnest but down deep I’m not really expecting or looking for God’s answer—when I say amen, I’m still expecting the fog to be there even when I’m hoping against the odds that it has dissipated. Or I don’t pray at all because I feel it is too insignificant or absurd to pray about—like a handkerchief in the middle of a Nazi concentration camp. I wonder why God would answer me. I wonder if I’m asking for the right thing – am I praying in His will? Often, I don’t know what to pray for, and worse yet, too often it doesn’t even occur to me to pray before I rush into life’s moments completely unprepared and vulnerable to worldly influences.
I know there is some kind of barrier of doubt or disbelief that hinders me from having the kind of confidence that Betsie and George had on their knees and I know that I’m not strong enough to remove that barrier, to destroy the wall that has built itself up between my Lord and me. However, just as I know that God took the brokenness of my life and created something beautiful out of it, I know that if I ask him to break that wall down for me, he will. So that is what I am asking right now and where my hope lies.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.—1 John 5:14-15

Are you more like Bestie and George or Corrie and the Captian when you prayer? What kind of barriers stand between you and a more intimate relationship with God? How will you overcome those barriers?  Spend some time in prayer confessing your Corrie/Captain-like hesitations and ask the Lord to instill in you a Betsie/George-like expectation for answered prayer in your own personal prayer life.

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