I can still remember the little plaque in my Grandmother’s house that read, “Prayer Changes Things”. And I believe with every fiber within me that prayer does make a difference. But when my mind is overwhelmed and I struggle to even put together words…my prayers seem weak and ineffective. When this happens, the Scripture here in Psalms shines bright in my mind. God will never spurn my prayers, however clumsy they may seem…and He will never stop loving me because of my awkwardness of words. For if you think about it, the real power of prayer is found in the Listener of our prayers, not in the one uttering the words.
I’m writing today’s Devotional for me and no one else, but you get to read it! The new year looms ahead with endless possibilities…all good things I could be doing. And as with most of you, I have more than enough opportunities to do good works for the Lord… to the point I’d spread myself so thin I would be ineffective in them all. The verses here in Philippians tell me that I need to let God know what it is I want. For me it’s clarification, direction, and purpose of all the things I could be doing…for I don’t want to be running down a road that’s not of God, simply for the sake of running. I Timothy 2:1-2 tells me the purpose for prayer is that I may lead a peaceful and quiet life…and for me, that comes from calmly resting in the very center of God’s Will.
Distress comes in many different forms, and no one is immune to worry. But it’s how we approach difficulties and troubles that can make the difference between barely wallowing through them, and coming out the other side better not bitter. This Psalm gives us a blueprint or a road-map, if you will, when it comes to offering our supplication before the Lord. First we need to realize that when we cry out to God, He actually hears us. He’s not some far off entity… aloof and distant. Rather, God longs to hear our prayers and work in and through the troubles we’re going through. Next, He’s a just God full of kindness…He knows what we’re going through and wants to help. Finally, He’s a listening God. For when there’s no one else you can confide in…He’s always there.
The people of Israel and Judah had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. This great assembly rejoiced and praised God for being able to meet together once again. And as their prayers rose to God, revival broke out. For before they even traveled home, it says they went throughout the country-side smashing false idols, cutting down Asherah poles, and destroying other places of pagan worship. Their prayers had been heard, they caught the vision God had for them, and they could not help but act on it. I pray for the same type of revival to break out in us.
Jesus taught by example. And over the course of His ministry here on earth, He modeled for the disciples not only the power of prayer…but the necessity for constancy, and steadfastness in the process. Prayer wasn’t an after thought for Jesus…it was the main thought. Nor was it the last thing He did after everything else had failed, it was the very first thing. So after Jesus had ascended into heaven and the disciples were alone and scared, they relied on the discipline of prayer Jesus had shown them to face the uncertain world ahead. The early Church was devoted to prayer…the Church of today should be as devoted.
Sometimes our prayers sound more like a toddler in a toy store…”I want that, and that, and that, and Oh, that!” God willingly listens to all our wishes and desires, but only He knows what we really need. And sometimes what we want and what we need are very far apart. So just remember, God understands and loves you far more than you can ever imagine…that only He can see “around the corner” of the future…and that He has only your best interest at heart. God may not give you everything you want, but He will give you everything you need.
When life’s going along smoothly…we tend to ignore God. We smugly think it’s us that’s making it all happen. So when disease, death or tragedy hits – we’re thrown for a loop. ” How can this possibly be happening to me…what am I going to do…how can I fix this?” It’s at that point of distress, we finally cry out to the Lord. But how do we know God’s listening to us…how do we know we have His attention? We can start by reading His Word. The Bible is full of times when God miraculously answered His people’s cries for help. And each time He answered, their faith was built up a little more. The Psalmist showed this confidence when he wrote, “Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. In the day of my trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me.” (Psalm 86:6-7) It’s that assurance from past answered prayers that enable us to have confidence every time we cry out to God anew.