Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Different Formulas

“Be joyful always; pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, NIV 1984).

I had two great disappointments this week. I had been praying desperately and long term for each outcome. One of my close friends, for whom I care as a doctor, had a recurrence of his cancer. One of my fellows who had failed his internal medicine boards on his first try found out he had failed them on his most recent try by four points. For at least a year I had been praying that God would make both things turn out differently, and He did not. This morning as I was running, I cried out, “What good are my prayers?” Sometimes it feels like a crapshoot. But I know it’s not.

Followers of Christ pray faithfully with many different formulas: some have a steady outline—like praise, thanks, confession, petition, etc. Others pray purely spontaneously from the heart. For myself, I use a formula, beginning with spontaneous thoughts, followed by the Lord’s Prayer, requests for family, close friends, fellows, colleagues, church, etc. Then I move geographically around the world and pray for those I love. I end in surrender. There is nothing better in my way than others, and there are many things I could learn from others about how to pray more effectively. But why do it? Some of my prayers seem to get answered and others don’t, no matter what method I use.
Is God not just working out His plan, His way, unaffected by my heartfelt petitions?
I don’t think so. I think prayer really matters.
  1. I trust Jesus and Jesus told me to pray.
  2. I have seen amazing, impossible events in life that have unfolded when I prayed, events that could not have happened without the intervention of God.
  3. If I did not pray, I would only think about God, without ever really knowing Him.
  4. If I did not pray, I would rarely hear God speak to me.
  5. If I did not pray, I would much less often change my actions toward those for whom I pray.
Of course, there is the matter of often failing to get what I want through my prayers. I probably need to trust God with that.

Dear God,
Thank you for the amazing gift of listening to me and speaking to me. Who am I that the Creator of the universe would bend an ear my way? And thank you that occasionally you change the universe when my petitions fall in line with your will.

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