Thanksgiving 2016 – today I am thankful for:
Yahweh – our present, accessible God – who is near to those who call on Him
I’m thankful specifically for prayer. Here’s what I’ve learned about it lately:
What if prayer is…
- more about relationship and less about lists?
- more about what God wants and less about what we want?
- more about God’s presence and less about the answers we seek?
Let’s face it – sometimes God disappoints us when he answers our prayers in ways we don’t want or expect, even when we ask for good things.
Try explaining to a young child why God didn’t answer his prayers for mommy and daddy to stay married and you’ll understand what I mean. Or to a mama who has lost her child. Or to someone experiencing a chronic, devastating illness. Or to someone who has lost everything.
Don’t misunderstand – God encourages and invites us to intercede for others and petition him with our requests in accordance with his will. I have close friends to whom I can text an SOS prayer request and know they’ll pray right away. We are encouraged, even commanded to pray for one another (Eph. 6:18). Prayer is a weapon of spiritual war.
The challenge comes when we…
- make the answer we want an idol to be achieved at all costs – instead of trusting God’s answer.
- expect in such a way that we blame God for letting us down when he doesn’t do our bidding.
- struggle to believe he is still good when bad things happen.
How then should we pray? What is the purpose of prayer?
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of books have been written about this and I don’t seek to explain it here – only to share my own experience. You see, I was that mama trying to explain to her young child why God didn’t answer his prayers in the affirmative. How could God deny a good thing and allow something to happen that was so wrong?
Like many over the centuries, I turned to the book of Psalms, the Bible’s prayer book. David and the other psalmists pour out their hearts to God, making no bones about what they want to happen to their enemies and lavishly praising God for his victories. There are moments of desperation and frustration and questioning “why.” There are moments of poetic praise of the character of God unparalleled in any other literature, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
But the most significant thing about Psalms as it relates to the names of God is that Yahweh, translated LORD (all caps), is used over 700 times – to cry out to him, describe him, petition him, and praise him.
Where did this name come from? It is the personal (proper) name of God. After telling Moses “I AM” (see last post), God says in Exodus 3:15, “The LORD (Yahweh)…is my name forever.” It denotes an immediacy, a presence, a covenant-keeping God who desires to be known to his people.
Yahweh – our personal, accessible God, who is present with us in our struggles
And so, what I have discovered in my own life is that the main purpose of prayer is personal relationship with God. Inviting him into our struggles and experiencing his presence in the midst of life, especially the desperate circumstances about which we often pray.
This is relationship
When you are in meaningful relationship with someone, you are constantly thinking about them, calling or texting them, involving them in your life. This is relationship with our personal, accessible, Yahweh God who is present with us every moment if we simply cry out to him and invite him to be. That’s what praying constantly means in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. The focus isn’t a checklist or post it notes or a journal, although those are useful tools. The focus is experiencing God’s presence in every situation by being in constant communication with him.
We are to pray expectantly knowing he is able to grant whatever we ask, but surrendering to his will and trusting him even when he doesn’t (see Daniel 3:1-16). Trusting that he will give us grace sufficient to live moment-by-moment each day. Knowing that when we are weak, the power of Christ is increased in us to make us strong (see 2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
Thy will be done
The outcome isn’t on us – God is able to accomplish his will no matter how big or small our prayers. The answer is up to him. What IS on us is two-way relationship.
- In what situation have you shut God out or neglected to invite him in?
- Where do you need to experience his grace and presence in your life?
- What have you been praying for that you need to surrender to God’s will, trusting him for the outcome?
- How can you encourage someone else to do the same?
- Whom do you need to pray for as a result of your relationship with him or her?
Yahweh – our present, accessible God – is near to those who call on Him