Newsweek magazine says 91 percent of women and 85 percent of men pray. Of course 100 percent of golfers pray on the putting green.
What is prayer? One little girl said it is messages sent up at night and on Sunday when the rates are low. Most times our prayers involve bailing us out of some mess — like the student who prayed, “God, either make Boston the capital of Vermont or lose my test paper.”
After a long and very difficult marriage, a woman told her husband, “I am praying God will help us by taking one of us to heaven. After He answers my prayer, I’m going to live with my sister.”
Children sometimes confuse prayers and adults make them too formal, especially at church. When the pastor steps up to the pulpit, he suddenly has a holy tone and talks with a stained glass voice. I like to hear new Christians pray because they haven’t learned the ritual. They say things like, “Hi God, this is Bob. Got your ears on?” That’s the way it should be — simple. You don’t have to systematize, organize, sanitize, or agonize over your prayers. Prayer is like a child coming to his father to talk.
What if I came home one day and my kids said, “Hail, thou illustrious Senior Pastor of Hoffmantown Church. We welcome thee home from thy sojourn down Academy Boulevard. Wouldst thou grant to thy second daughter Kasey, and thy third daughter, Breanne, funds that we may sojourn to yonder apothecary and procure for ourselves some cosmetics with which to adorn ourselves, oh Gracious Father?”
I’d accuse them of snorting Sweet & Low. They don’t talk like that. They would say something like, “Hi Dad. Love you, missed you. Need to get some stuff, got any money? Thanks Dad.”
Prayer is not trying to persuade God to do what you want. A professor in a college English class was trying to impress upon his students the value of a rich vocabulary. He said to them, “If you will take a new word and use it ten times it will be yours forever.” A young woman in the class looked dreamily out the window and started saying, “George, George, George, George … ”
That’s the way some people pray, looking for the right password to get the “George” of their dreams. Prayer is telling God you want to be a partner in what He wants to do. You won’t find a better partner.
Does God answer prayers? Sure He does. Sometimes he doesn’t answer the way we want Him to. Even Garth Brooks understands that. He sang Thank God for Unanswered Prayers. When you went to your high school reunion and saw the person who, twenty years ago, you thought you had to marry, did you say to yourself, “Thank God for unanswered prayers?”
Sometimes He says, “No,” because you don’t need what you want. Sometimes He says, “No,” because you have the wrong motive. Sometimes the timing is wrong and He says not “No,” but, “Slow.” Sometimes you just aren’t ready and He says, not “No” or “Slow,” but, “Grow.” Other times He says, “Go.” Go with His power, knowing that it isn’t just a good idea, but a God idea.
A man who climbed mountains as a hobby was climbing one of the highest mountains in the world with two professionals. They climbed up the sheltered side of the mountain to the top. As they approached the peak the man was so exhilarated he began to jump up and down to see the view beyond. But the wind from the other side was so powerful it almost blew him off the mountain. The guide quickly grabbed him, brought him down to safety, and said, “On your knees sir, on your knees. You’re only safe up here, on your knees.”
Wow! What a statement! If you are going to get anywhere in life, especially close to the top, you’re safe only on your knees. Prayer does change things. Most of the time it changes us. That is usually why God wants to spend time with us.
One little girl heard the choir singing “God is Still on the Throne.” On the way home from church she told her mom, “I really like that song ‘God is Still on the Phone.’” God is still on the phone. Why don’t you give Him a call — local, direct, and free of charge?