Story was told of a man who was an avowed atheist and he was taking a hike in the woods. As he gazed upon the beauty of nature, he thought to himself, “What a marvel it is that this all happened by random chance.” Then all of a sudden, a movement in the thicket caught his eye. He spotted a bear appear from out of the bush and approach him menacingly. The man panicked and broke into a sprint, running away from the bear. The bear gave chase. As the pair dashed through the woods, no matter how fast the man ran, the bear kept gaining on him, gaining on him. The distance between them grew shorter and shorter. As the man turned to look at where the bear was, he did not notice a root from a tree protruding from the ground. He stumbled over it, fell to a ground with a thud. And as he raised his head to look, the bear pounced! “Help! God!” the man cried.
Then suddenly, everything stood still. The bear was frozen in midair, paws raised. Trees stopped swaying. The waters of the stream stood still. And a bright light shone out from the heaven and the man heard a voice saying, “Yes? You called?”
“Oh, You exist,” says the atheist. “Can You make this bear go away?”
“Why should I?” replies God. “You’ve been denying Me your entire life, and even telling others to deny Me.”
“I suppose that’s fair,” says the atheist, “but how about You make the bear a Christian?”
“Ah, that I’m willing to do.”
Time resumes. The trees resumed their gentle swaying. The water of the stream flowed afresh. The bear slowly lowers one paw, then the other. Claps them together. “Dear God, I thank You for the food I am about to eat.”
Prayer. I wonder what you think about prayer. Some of us may believe it’s akin to wishful thinking. Some of us may think, “no harm trying… what if it works?” Well, Christians believe in praying because we believe in a God who is personal. A God who communicates with us through His Word, the Bible, and invites us to respond to Him… to speak with Him in prayer.
Prayer is a huge topic. I’m not going to do justice to cover every aspect of it in a devotion. What I’d like to do is leave you with some thoughts.
- Prayer invites God to do what we cannot accomplish by ourselves
Many feel that prayer is a waste of time because it seems nothing concrete is being done. However, there are countless examples of men and women of God who accomplished history-altering deeds and testified to the foundational role of prayer in their lives. Martin Luther, the great Reformer once declared, “I have so much business I cannot get on without spending three hours daily in prayer.”
It has been said that God can accomplish in 5 seconds what may take us 50 years of trying. That’s why we pray. For peace we do not experience. For wisdom we do not possess. For circumstances beyond our control. But He in control and harkens to the voice of a faith-filled child of God.
- Prayer invites God not only to change our circumstances but to change us
The Bible says this in the book of James 4:2, 3 “… You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” You see, God is not a vending machine. Insert prayer, receive answer. God is not a genie in a lamp. ‘O thank you for speaking to Me because I’m so lonely; here, I’ll grant you 3 wishes.”
Sometimes, it’s not that God does not answer prayer but that God’s answer to prayer is transforming us. Here’s a poem I felt expresses this sentiment…
“I asked for strength, and God gave me difficulties to overcome and to strengthen me. I asked for wisdom, and God gave me problems to solve.
I asked for prosperity, and God gave me enough brains and brawn to work.
I asked for courage, and God gave me obstacles to overcome.
I asked for love, and God gave me troubled people who needed help.
I received nothing I wanted, but God gave me everything I needed.”
- Prayer is ultimately about knowing God
As I alluded to earlier, the ultimate purpose of prayer is to cultivate our relationship with God. Prayer is NOT meant to be purely utilitarian. All human relationships deepen through communication and conversation. It’s the same with God. To the extent we allow Him to speak to us, and we speak with Him, we grow to know Him. Here’s the tremendous invitation God extends to us in the book of Jeremiah 29:13, 14 “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you…”
This examination season, I pray for you… more than receiving wisdom from God, more than experiencing the peace of God, more than even encountering the power of God in transforming you… is that you’ll simply come to know the God who loves you and cares for you. And that you would encounter Him through prayer.
[Pray]: Dear God, I have one simple and humble request of You this morning… that each one of my dear friends here will know that You love them deeply and care for them dearly. May they therefore seek You with all their heart, that they might indeed find You, for so You do promise. In Jesus name, I pray, amen.