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Saturday, 24 May 2014

TRY praying?

I went to Hamilton, today, by public transport.  As the 'bus travelled through Motherwell, I noticed a banner tied to the railings of a church building.  On it were printed just two words: "Try Praying".

Now that might seem, at first glance, to be good advice.  However, as I thought about it, I realised that it isn't!  Now, those who know me well may be surprised at that.  I am a great believer in prayer, and its effectiveness.  Why would I not be in favour of people praying? 

Well of course, I am very much in favour of people engaging in that particular activity.  My concern is with the word "Try".  You see, if people merely 'try' praying, the results are unlikely to be positive.  If I am 'trying' something, I tend to approach it rather tentatively.  If I am merely 'trying', I am unlikely to have much in the way of confidence.

Perhaps it would have been better for that fellowship to have had just one word on the banner - "Pray"!  Even that requires some clarification.  Prayer is not some emergency button that we press when a situation is not to our liking.  Prayer is conversing with Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that is.  We ought not, therefore, to approach it in a casual manner.  We certainly ought not to assume that, even although we neglect, or reject, Him most of the time, that He will instantly spring into action on our behalf simply because we have uttered a few meaningless platitudes.  We most definitely ought not to think that prayer is a means by which we may manipulate God to meet our needs!

There are at least two basic requirements for prayer.  The first is that we believe that it does work - not by changing God, but by changing us.  During this period of transition in our own domestic situation, all of my study posters have been packed away.  But there is one that I don't really need to have on the wall.  It reads: "Sincere prayer is not an attempt to change the Will of God, but a genuine desire to bring my will into line with His".

The second thing to consider is that we not only need to believe in the efficacy of prayer; we also need to pray believing!   James writes: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, Who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord." (James 1:5-8).  The same principle applies to all requests!

A final word.  Some complain that God doesn't answer their prayers.  Untrue!  What, in my experience, that tends to mean is "I didn't get the result for which I had asked."!   However, all that that means is that God's answer was 'No', or 'Not now'.  However, He did answer - and always does so for our ultimate good, and for His glory.

So, with all due respect, please ignore that banner, if you see it.  Don't try praying - pray; and do so believing that Father God hears, understands, and responds - even if you don't always appreciate the answer!

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