Monday, January 21, 2008

We’ve got to Pray, just to make it today!

In Luke 11, Jesus teaches us how to pray and immediately follows it with a practical story of its importance. In it, a man is confronted at midnight by an acquaintance who knocks on his door and asks for several loaves of bread because a friend of his has just arrived and he has nothing to give him to eat. The man inside counters, “I am warm and comfortable with my wife and children in bed. The door is locked, and I need a good night sleep. So I can’t help you.” The man’s prayer to his friend for help has apparently been denied. But the impact that persistent prayer makes is so remarkable, that it can move the hearts and minds of the healthy about the sick, parents about their children, masters about their pets, and even of God regarding his creation.
In his book, ‘The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God’, Dallas Willard expresses an unfortunate yet common perspective that many share regarding prayer:
“Suppose your children believed that you didn’t do anything differently because they asked you. For example; you will give them money on Friday evening regardless of whether they ask you for it or not. But they also believe that you require them to go through the ritual of asking, and so they do it. . . . They do it even though they believe you will or will not give it to them regardless of what they do, and you know they believe this.”
Is prayer a matter of ritual, or does it involve exercising faith?
In Dr. Randolph Byrd's 1988 study on intercessory prayer, a percentage of 393 coronary patients, who were hospitalized due to heart attacks or equally traumatic experiences, were prayed for, while the remainder were not. The study concluded that whether the patients were receiving prayer from across the street or across the country, distance did not play a role in the effectiveness of the prayers given. And considerably fewer patients, who received prayer, died or needed to use the most potent drugs, not one requiring life support.
We have two cats at our house who regularly meow, demanding that I (or anyone else within earshot) would stop what they are currently doing and attend to their immediate and desperately important need. On most occasions, this involves lifting them up to where their bowl of food is kept, on top of our washing machine. Sometimes I complain, “can’t you jump? It’s not that high!” Or attempt to ignore them entirely. But my frustration with their persistent and distracting noise always results in giving them my attention for at least a second or two so they will stop meowing.
If you were a cat who needed just a little bit of help to get to its food supply or a patient in a hospital who needed healing of some kind, what route would you take to get it? Cats would probably continue to meow and hopefully America would continue to pray for those in need. In Luke 11, the man waiting outside his friend’s house was also persistent, continuously knocking, talking and waiting on his friend to get up and give him what he needed.
If however, the man outside decided to leave, his friend inside would not need to do anything about his situation. However, if the man inside finally did decide to get out of bed, but his friend outside had decided that this situation was a hopeless one and left, he would not be there to receive the things that he had asked for. If my cats had decided to stop meowing and instead lie in front of the fire, they would still be hungry and not be ready to receive another meal from me. And if America had stopped praying for their countrymen in need, they may just die.
How important are the things you are currently praying about? Are they worth waiting for? As the man waited, all the time explaining his situation, repeating his request, and not allowing his friend inside to sleep, his request was finally granted. Are you willing to wait long enough for God to answer? If you do, you may just be rewarded.

Ask and you'll get;
Seek and you'll find;
Knock and the door will open.
Don't bargain with God.
Be direct. Ask for what you need.
This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in.
Don't you think the Father, who loves you, will fulfill your needs when you ask him?
Luke 11: 9-10, 13

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