In my last post, I talked about water, using a metaphor of an old-timey hand pump priming the pump, getting the water flowing and then drawing “water,” that which sustains and satisfies us. One key method by which we draw water is through prayer, which increases and replenishes that which nourishes and refreshes us. Here are some ideas that help me to understand prayer and the drawing and receiving water.
First: we ought to pray consistently. “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father…who sees what is done in secret and (and) will reward you.” Prayer makes a difference in our lives. Prayer makes us different people. There’s a well-known saying that “prayer changes things.” I don’t think that’s quite true. I think prayer changes people and then people change things. So, what happens when we pray? One of the things that begins to happen is that our lives change. We become good stewards of all that God has given us, prioritizing our resources. How we treat people, our neighbors, is different. How we go about our business is different. How we treat our family is also different. Perhaps the best illustration of a life of genuine, biblical consistency is a flat table with everything on top of it, in full view, together and not compartmented. Visible consistency keeps me from being doubleminded or worse yet double-ethiced.
Second, we ought to pray confidently. “…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” “Give us today our daily bread…” Elijah called the prophets of Baal up to Mount Carmel and said, “Let’s decide whose god is really God.” Elijah prayed with confidence. And, boy, when he prayed, God responded. Whoosh! The fire from God came immediately and burnt up the bull, the wet wood, the stones, and even the dust. The Bible teaches us that if you draw water, it’s going to be more than a trickle. It’s going to be a deluge of how God wants to answer our prayers. Oh, that we would all pray more confidently because our God is such an awesome God who will do what he said he would do!
Third, we ought to pray conversationally. “Our Father in heaven…” God’s our friend. Jesus is alive, he is real. He’s the best friend that we have. I love that passage in John 20 when Mary went to the tomb following Jesus’ resurrection and “the gardener” appeared. She asked him where her Lord had been taken. Then Jesus called her by name, “Mary,” and she recognized him as her friend, her Lord, saying “My Lord and my God.” They began to converse. Prayer is conversation that can really water our spirit.
Fourth, we ought to pray compliantly, in accordance with God’s will. “Your kingdom come, your will be done…” Prayer is not about bending God’s will to meet my will; prayer is about bending my will to meet God’s will. In the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before he died, Jesus prayed earnestly, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not what I want, but what you want.” Prayer is saying, “Father, I want your will.” If you throw out a rope to a rowboat a few feet away from the pier, the people in the boat don’t pull the pier out to the boat. They pull the boat to the pier. Prayer isn’t pulling God out to where we are; prayer is pulling us to where God is and where he wants us to be.
Finally, we ought to pray confessionally. “and forgive us our debts…” We need to confess our sins to God. Confessing opens the door to freedom and the ability to receive God’s grace and favor. When we sin, there are three options of how we can deal with it: W can repress it, express it, or confess it. Repressing it is a lot like pushing a ball down in the water. The deeper you push it, the higher it’s going to come out when it is finally released. When we express our sins unwisely, without the safety of relationships of trust in an environment of grace, we risk hurting not only ourselves but a lot of other people. The best way of dealing with sin is to confess it to God. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). It is no surprise that a Repentance Walk is an early element in the WAAWG experience.
“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” – James 5:12-16 NIV