Author and speaker, John Ortberg challenged me when he stated, “Many people believe that their prayers won’t change God’s actions, so they ask themselves what the point is of praying.” It reminded me I am often much like the father in Mark 9. He cried out with tears, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” This father new where to take his requests, and, just like me, he had all faith Christ could do anything, but he lacked the faith to believe Jesus would do it for him. When I read in Ortberg’s writings, “prayers of real human beings – like you and me – interrupt heaven,” I was shaken down in my soul. To think all of heaven pauses when we offer up our pleas to God moves me to dispute the enemy’s lie my prayers are not important.
Even though I have witnessed the miracle of God answering prayers, when I do not see immediate reversal of a bad situation, I grow weary and doubtful. Many prayers seem to go unnoticed. I allow myself to get frustrated way too easily when a prayer’s answer requires waiting – and trusting. I hop on the pity wagon thinking my prayers are simply not as important as someone whose faith seems stronger, or walk a little deeper and truer than mine. I felt conviction as I pondered how easily I give up or walk away from a prayer because my flesh gets frustrated. So, when I read back over an old paper I had written, I found comfort in the fact great saints of God can identify with the way my mind can tend to wander. They assure me prayer experts are not simply born that way. Prayer is a learned discipline, and no one ever truly masters it this side of grace. We none pray perfectly, and thankfully, perfection is not what our Savior is looking for. God desires me to pray my heart, and come to Him just as I am. Those wandering thoughts, confessed struggles, doubts, and fears lead me to what God most wants to discuss with me. John Ortberg calls them “steppingstones to prayer.” I love that!
According to theologian and biblical scholar, Walter Wink, “it pays to haggle with God.” What a picture – haggling with God. I began to think of places in the scriptures where prayers were heart wrenchingly real. And while there are many from Genesis to Revelation, I enjoyed recalling the Syrophoenician woman as she besought Jesus on behalf of her daughter. This broken woman modeled the “impertinent, persistent, shameless, undignified” prayers Wink references in his teachings. When Jesus seemed to ignore her, she was indecorous; when He twice gave her reason to believe she may not receive help, she was persistent. With her final plea, “Truth Lord; yet the dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table,” she was shameless. She knew Christ was her hope, no matter what, and she would not let Him go. I desire a relationship with my Lord like hers, one in which I will not let Him go.
To know that He holds us in the palm of His hands is quite overwhelming to me, and so is the fact He will place me on someone’s surrendered heart trusting they will pray for me – and they do! Nevertheless, the most awesome gift I feel unworthy of is when He believes in me enough to place a precious soul on my own heart. To know He is entrusting me with their prayer-need humbles me to tears. I can only ask He guide me and grow me in the powerful discipline of prayer, because it is one of great honor, and importance – it is one of our greatest protections.