I have seen and heard quite a few prayers in my time, as short as that may be, prayers from Pastors as well as members, Adults as well as children, believers as well as non-believers but the most shocking type of them all Is one type that I experienced in full force here and it made me drastically rethink my understanding of Prayer. But what brought this on? Well I’m glad you asked.
This week we have been having a bit of a Conference at LPC (Lefkosa Protestant Church) and one of the topics being tackled by one of the speakers is Prayer. A lot of this has been eye opening stuff, as all good preaching must be. In my thinking over what I have learned from all of this I thought upon the prayers I have heard and one in particular hit me. You see this one time I was in the presence of a guy who was praying, he wasn’t going anywhere and neither was I so he got started while I was doing my own thing.
He started off by playing what could be called ‘worship music’ which John MacArthur would call 7/11 music. Seven words repeated eleven times then repeat the cycle. He literally worked himself into a frenzy that had him crying apologising to God for his frailties and failings. He was in such a state it was as though he forgot I was also there or even that he was where he was, it was a private place by the way not out in the street.
My problem with all this was not him crying, I am all for brokenness before the lord though not all the time after all there is a time for everything. My problem was not in him doing all that while I was around or him raising his voice, considering the circumstances such actions were not that far-fetched. My problem was in the need to work himself into a frenzy in order to pray, almost as though you need to be in a specific zone to feel as though your prayer is having any effect. My problem was the need he felt to force himself into a feeling that he was not having.
I see prayer as a conversation between a believer and God and whether the prayer is happening in public or in private it must be remembered that at the end of the day it is the Christian talking to God. I don’t know about you but when I am having a conversation with some other person I am not always ‘hubbly bubbly’ nor am I always broken. I could be one of those or any in between but when I go into that conversation I do not go in pretending to be/feel what I am not after all the listener prizes sincerity. This applies even more in prayer, God wants us to be sincere in our prayer not faking something we do not feel.
There are times when I do not feel like praying, there are times when I feel tired, frustrated even hungry. Sincerity with God is bringing all this before him and not pretending to be something I am not. Sincerity is very important because God knows our hearts after all so we are fooling no one. All attempts at faking a feeling are like trying to water a lawn behind a brick wall by pouring water onto the wall, completely and utterly pointless.
But why the comparison to masturbation? Isn’t that more crass a comparison than is needed. No, in fact I think it rarely comes any closer to the truth. Masturbation is working one’s self into a frenzy or a feeling of sexual arousal without the actual partner, in short it is a profanity of the God given act of sex. It is the individual forcing a situation that does not actually exist in order to feel a closer connection or feeling but at the end of the day there is no satisfaction from that because no proper satisfaction can be gotten from the profane.
Prayer is not to be treated as such. It must be something that we come to honestly, with what we have, baggage and all. God gives us the opportunity and the avenue through which we can go to him and pour out our hearts to him because he is the only one who can truly understand what we are going through. What benefit is it to us if we go in faking what is actually going on with us. Who are we fooling anyway, God is not fooled. If I can make one more conjecture and this one is more personal in nature. Not all poor use or abuse of prayer involves working one’s self into a frenzy, the other type is the need to hide what we are truly feeling from God. The thought that we should not pray since we are not in the mood, or tired, or feel utterly sinful.
The best time to pray is now. Whatever situation you may be in you need God and the need for God means that you must pray, whether you feel up to it or not. And if there is one thing that I know and often forget, much like a lot of us, it is when we feel far from grace that grace comes and wraps its arms around us and in that moment there is very little that can surpass that knowledge