Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry.”
Psalm 40: 1
King James Version
Today’s Study Text:
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like Him.”
II Corinthians 3: 18
The Message Bible
“Why I Believe In Prayer” Prayer Changes Me -- Part 5
“No heart thrives without much secret converse with God, and nothing will make amends for the want of it.”
When I pray, what types of changes have I seen in my own life?
What changes in my life do I desire for my Father to make as I pray to Him now?
“What can be more excellent than prayer; what is more profitable to our life; what sweeter to our souls; what more sublime, in the course of our whole life, than the practice of prayer!
Augustine of Hippo
“Prayer changes things? No! Prayer changes people.”
I’ll never forget, when as a young girl, I saw a sign in the window of a bookstore that said, “Prayer Changes Things.” For those of you who have come to the “Garden” for awhile, you are well aware that I’m a rather inquisitive sort, and even as a young child not only did I ask a boatload of questions, but I also didn’t just take everything I saw, heard, or read as fact – especially a wooden sign that said, “Prayer Changes Things!” In fact, after rolling this particular thought around in my head for awhile, I came up with quite a list of things that I believed prayer hadn’t changed – not one single bit.
For example, when I was about thirteen years old, my mom got sick. I’m not certain what all was wrong but I do know I prayed she would feel better, and frankly, from my teenage eyes, it was several years before her fragile emotional and physical state seemed to improve at all. And from all I could see, my prayers didn’t make a bit of difference. Instead, there were some new pills she took that my dad told me we are helping her feel better. To my young heart, prayer didn’t seem to be the magical connection to heaven I had heard preachers rave about at church revivals.
Quite frankly, even today, I wonder if sometimes the reason we get disappointed when our prayers seem to fall on deaf ears is that some of the “churchy” hype about miraculous answers to prayer from televangelists has only served to taint the truth regarding our Father’s gift of prayer and what it means in our lives in a very personal way.
So today, as we continue our study on “Why I Believe In Prayer,” I want to tell you, from a totally personal point of view, why I pray, even though I haven’t gotten the results I wanted and even though there have been times when I frankly didn’t want to pray because I thought or felt as if it didn’t make any difference at all. And let me add, with great honesty, that I’ve even told God before, “Why should I tell you stuff You already know. It doesn’t matter because You probably won’t give me what I want so why should I bother asking and then feel let down when things don’t turn out the way I want.”
Now please, don’t take this statement out of context and use it in any way to think I feel that prayer is a waste of time. The truth is just the opposite. For when I’ve had my hopes crushed to pieces is when I’ve found prayer to be my greatest solace and most treasured gift from heaven’s “Throne of Grace.”
To underscore what I mean, I want to let you know, with complete surety, that I believe with all my heart that prayer doesn’t necessarily change “things,” those intangibles which are difficult to put your hands on, but what prayer has and is doing in my own life is this: Prayer has changed me! And in three very specific ways:
1. Prayer has changed me by changing the way I view myself. Daily communion with God, my Father, has given me a new sense of my self-worth and the true value my Father in heaven places upon me. I’ve been so inspired in my life by the writings and life of Hudson Taylor, the dedicated missionary to China. He makes the observation that speaking with God is talking with a “loved-one.” This thought that God is my beloved Father and I am His daughter, fills me with such a profound sense of cherished importance. What I say, how I feel, where I’m going, and what I need, really matter to my “Dad.” But even more importantly, not only does it matter, my “Dad” loves having me share every tidbit about my life with Him. In the beautiful words of Francois Fenelon, “Talk to Him in prayer of all your wants, your troubles, even of the weariness you feel in serving Him. You cannot speak too freely, too trustfully, to Him.” How thankful I am that my Father cares for me and that everything that concerns me, concerns Him, too!
2. Prayer has changed me by changing the way I view my heavenly Father. No longer do I look at God as the big “Santa Claus” in the sky whose only task is to drop down the chimney of my life some trinket I think I can’t do without. Quite to the contrary, my view of my Father now is of a compassionate and gracious, “Dad,” whose supreme love for me was so great that not only did He willingly give up the most precious person to Himself, His only beloved Son, Christ Jesus, but then, He went so far as to adopt me into His family. What’s more, He holds me in His heart and promises to never let me go. What more could a daughter ask for. But there is more that my Father bestows upon me through the gift of prayer and it is this: sometimes, when He doesn’t answer my prayers with the speed I think He should or in the way I want Him to, He lets me know that He is still with me, to hold me when I scream at Him and tell Him how unfair life is and how I don’t think He really loves me because He isn’t doing what I want so badly.
It is in these tough times that I’ve found that my Father holds me the closest, loves me the deepest, and keeps me within His protective care until the gift that He knows I need the most is showered down upon me in such bucketfuls that there aren’t enough pails in the universe to hold the gifts He gives. And it is through my prayers that haven’t been answered, that my faith has grown the most to trust and believe in my Father’s will for me or to paraphrase what A. W. Tozer penned, prayer puts me in such close touch with God, that I want what He wants and wills for my life.
3. Prayer has changed me by changing the way I view others. Last night, before I dropped off to sleep, there were many names I shared with my Father: young Ian, who faces some severe emotional challenges; Matt, who came home from Iraq traumatized by the war and is struggling with alcohol and Phil in Australia who is battling alcoholism, too. Then there’s Angela and the return of her daughter to her home and Janet who needs God’s direction in her life and Debby who has been diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer (and her young husband already died of cancer). And there’s Terri who is again waiting a stem-cell transplant. Plus this week alone, we received the names of over 100 children, from parents around the world, who are asking for prayers for these dear young ones. And there’s also my precious Anna Litchfield battling brain cancer. All day long I pray for my “sister” who is undergoing chemo gain. She is someone whose bravery, courage and faith call me to pray.
Here’s the reason I share this with you. As recently as five years ago, not one of these people were on my prayer list. The truth is, my prayer list was rather short and very selfish. I prayed mostly for what mattered in Dorothy’s narrow little world! Not any more! Every day now, I find myself less interested in the “things” of this old world that used to consume my interest. I am much more focused on encouraging and uplifting others by taking their needs to my Father’s “Throne of Grace.” Call it a shift in outlook. I’d rather look up than look down. I love how Bernard Clark explains the desire to pray: “Since the lines have been cleared between the Lord and me, the telephone has never stopped ringing.”
Yes, prayer makes huge changes in this world – but the biggest changes are found in the lives of individuals, God’s daughters and sons who, as William Law shares, ”Have learned that (prayer) is the greatest secret of a holy and happy life.”
“Oh, it is a glorious fact, that prayers are noticed in heaven.”
C. H. Spurgeon
I am here,
for the world,
for this moment,
I am here…”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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