Prayer and Selfishness
Anyone who believes that prayer does not work really hasn’t finished the thought.
When prayer does not work the way we wish it would, meaning we don’t get what we want, it’s so easy to want to throw in the towel and declare it all nonsense. Which, when you think about it, is sort of like declaring that conversations don’t work. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t — get us what we want. Yet has it ever been a sign of great maturity to give up on talking? (Been there, done that, not helpful).
And think about it from God’s perspective. How well do we enjoy conversations with people when we know all they really want is for us to give them something? What kind of relationship is it — really — when one says to the other, “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll never talk with you again!”?
Prayer isn’t rubbing the genie’s lamp, even when from my perspective I believe I need a specific outcome in order to survive.
Prayer forces me to stop, consider, listen, seek, rest, and rejoice in spite of circumstances and inspite of specific outcomes occurring. It moves me outside my own box of self-interest to consider what is good for others. It allows me to see God at work and draws me closer to him. It forces me to reflect and to grow up by seeing myself in a more appropriate light. I discover that what happens to me is not the biggest thing. And yet, counter-balancing this reality, I also come to understand that God loves me and wants to give me the deepest desires of my heart starting with aligning my heart with his.
You see, it is easy to pay lip service to prayer, to offer one once in a while, and to even go so far as to give our lives to defend the freedom of others to pray — without giving it any serious consideration as important for our own lives; to use it as a last resort, a Hale Mary bomb to the end zone.
I think there are really only two conclusions any thinking person can make with regards to prayer. Either it is superstitious sentimentality that means nothing and goes nowhere, or it is how anyone can talk to God.
That’s where it all started for me back in the summer of 1973. I was putting up with someone else praying out loud when the thought suddenly occurred to me, “What if some invisible someone is really listening to us right now?” The thought unnerved me because I understood the implications for me were staggering. Most of what I once believed to be true about who I am and how the world really works were put in the blender. My entire world along with the stars, moon and sun were rolled up like a scroll.
Fortunately, rather than discounting the idea as silly, I took a chance and said hello.
We’ve been talking ever since.
In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. Philippines 4:6 This is a verse I try to hold on to.