Saturday, December 30, 2006

Prayer time

I try to spend time on a regular basis in prayer. I wish I could say that I spent quality time in prayer every day. Sometime it is so . . . . but I'm still working on consistency. And I have several prayer styles. Sometimes, it is a quick prayer right before I go to bed. I've learned that bedtime is NOT a good time for praying for things you are worried about. For me, it just puts my mind on them and part of my brain churns rather then letting them go. Evening prayer time is better for thanksgiving and praise.

My best prayer time is in the mornings out on my porch. I've begun to treasure that time. I generally take a cup of tea or coffee and something that looks like breakfast. I sit in my iron chair with the iron ottoman to prop my feet up. I listen and watch for birds. I read a passage from the One Year Bible. I generally have at least one other devotional or meditation book. And I have a journal. I've gone through quite a few. Each journal book clocks a different period of time. I just finished one that I started in March.

To match my personality, my journal entries are eclectic. Lately, I've been jotting down the birds I see along with the devotional thoughts that "spoke" to me. And, I write my prayers. I suspect I should tell my children and husband never to read my journals , because some of the prayer thoughts concerning other people are private, personal secrets. And then again, they are a written history of how God has answered my prayers over time. I pray for my family, I pray for my friends. I pray for my congregation, for world events. I pray for our daily needs, our financial security. I believe in praying specifically.

The Workbook on Intercessory Prayer by Maxie Dunnam stressed the importance of praying for each other with the thought that God can't answer what we don't ask. While it was a great study on prayer, I found myself becoming compulsive in my prayers. I felt a big burden on my shoulders. If I did not pray for it, if I did not pray hard enough about it, if I did not have enough faith . . . . was I letting someone down?

The first year my friend, Debbie, was fighting cancer, I prayed every day for her healing. I pleaded with God. I gave him what I thought were very good reasons why he should heal her. My nephew, Blake, was in Iraq as a Marine. I had a prayer litany that I said for each of them every night as I went to sleep. Blake is back from Iraq, safe in all the ways I prayed. There are even miracle stories - his vehicle hitting a land mine - and no one was hurt or killed. He could feel the prayer shields around him, protecting him in that far away place. Debbie is still fighting cancer. Somewhere along the way, God gave me a sense of peace about Debbie. I can't explain it. I still pray for her, regularly, intensely . . . but not every day.

A group of us pray regularly with Debbie. One of the ladies has commented that God will hear and answer these sweet prayers we are offering to him. We pray before each chemo session. Each of us brings a different perspective - the doctors, her physical comfort, her peace of mind, strength for her family, as well as for complete healing. While Debbie is still fighting cancer, she is still alive, still strong, and still vibrant. Two years ago, she came very close to death. I believe that the continuous prayers for her were answered, she is still alive and so much stronger than she was this time two years ago. She has lived life fully, travelling the world with her husband, enjoying her children these last two years. She will tell you of how God has been with her and given her strength and courage.

As I contemplate and meditate, I know that I do not have the same world view as God. I do not have His wisdom. I can not see what He sees. This time last year, we were worried about my father-in-law. I emailed our preacher, Roger, to get Gene on the church's prayer list. I will never forget his reply: "praying for God's perfect will." While last year, Gene seemed near death, this year he has stablized and is so much better than last year.

While my job is to pray, and to pray without ceasing, it is NOT my job to second guess whether my prayers are "good enough," whether I have enough faith, whether I am righteous enough, etc. God knows what we need before we ever ask. But our prayers of petition are an acknowledgement of who is in control of this world.

During these years I have told my friend that what is supposed to happen will happen. While it may sound fatalistic, this concept gives me a lot of peace. I am acting as a prayer warrier in a battle whose ultimate victory is already assured. God already knows the end of the story. I believe that it will in some way be a victory. While bad things can happen to good people, I also believe that God is still in control of this world and active in it. I don't know what God's perfect will is for my friend, for my family, or even for myself. But I know that God hears my prayers and answers them in a way far better than anything I could dream. How do I know this? Is it simply blind faith on my part? I don't think so. Over the last 35 years, I have seen God work out many seemingly impossible situations. Because God is working in the hearts of men, some prayers take longer to answer than others. But the end result is worth waiting for.

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