Two Questions I Have About Prayer

There are two questions about prayer I have long thought over. I am not interested in flippant responses that “answer” these questions. I think there is legitimate (but mostly ignored) tension that should cause us to think about how and what we pray.

1) Intercession. Praying for other people is supposed to be a major facet of prayer. However, most of the time when I intercede, or have heard others intercede, the prayer usually has more to do with me and my problem with that person. I get frustrated, angry, annoyed, irritated, or any number of other things, with people and pray that God grant them spiritual growth so they quit being so stinking irritating.

I doubt this is what intercession is supposed to be. Do we pause to consider whether our intercession is just anger? Is our concern for other people actually masked concern for our self? Or perhaps a little Pharisaical, “Lord thank you I don’t have the problems those jokers have. Lord help em. Amen.”

I think a lot of intercession is nothing more than proud gloating.

2) Worry. Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, to “take no thought for tomorrow.” The context shows that He is referring to worry, wondering where food will come from and so forth. Should I not pray about worries for tomorrow then?

Consider–Saturday night, I’m in my basement, getting ready for Sunday sermon. I pray for people in the church, I pray for the sermon to go well, I pray that people get off their dumb excuses and get to church (there’s some of that proud intercession), etc. My thoughts about Sunday that take place on Saturday can be described with no other word than “Worry.”

I know many people say that we should take our worries to God in prayer “leave em with Jesus, brother,” and this qualifies as not worrying. However, if I’m not supposed to worry, how is bringing my worries to Jesus not worrying? It would be like Adam bringing bushels of half-eaten forbidden fruit to God.

Faith is a trust that God will take care of you. Faith is best shown by lack of worry and fear. If our prayers are mostly worry and fear, is this even a legitimate prayer? Isn’t it just giving voice to our lack of faith, which pretty much destroys the whole concept of prayer? (“Ask, in prayer, believing.”) I know we “cast our cares upon Him,” but still, He tells us not to worry.

There have been many a Saturday where I said to God, “You know, I’m not even going to think about tomorrow. You can take care of that, help me get my sermon ready today.” Perhaps that is more honoring than two hours of consternation about how church might be a failure tomorrow.

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Again, let me just say, I am not interested in flippant responses to these questions. Regardless of what is said about this, I will continue to think on them. If you have any thoughts that might further my thoughts, feel free to share, but don’t Job’s Friends me here!

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One thought on “Two Questions I Have About Prayer”

  1. I think you are being too harsh on yourself. Remember:

    Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. –Ps 103:13-14

    (1) We have to pray for people who are problematic; and thank goodness we are given this wonderful way of dealing with them!

    But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
    That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
    For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
    And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
    Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.–Matt. 5:44-48

    I absolutely cannot do this apart from Christ.

    Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
    I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.–John 15:4-5

    We are commanded to pray for our “enemies.” I know this, so when I am strongly tempted to hate someone, this keeps coming to mind. However haltingly I do it, I must step forward in faith. It may start out with me thinking I am better than the other person, but in prayer, it comes out into the light and I am forced to see things more in God’s way. When I continually pray for a person it really brings me to love them, no matter how difficult they are. That to me is real evidence of God’s presence and His power. Maybe that is partly why He wants us to do it.

    (2) Again, Ps. 103:13-14. The Lord knows we worry. It is so kind that He gives us such comforting words, like:

    Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
    Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.–Matt. 10:29-31

    It’s not always just, “Stop it!” How tenderly He reminds us repeatedly throughout Scripture to trust in Him.

    Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.–Phil. 4:6-7

    To me, the process you describe is the very way a human attempts to bring himself into subjection to God.

    Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ–Cor. 10:5

    Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.–Phil.3:12

    So, there’s my two cents.

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