'How do we pray?'

Monday Reflection

10th August 2020

'From inside the fish'

17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah,
      and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
1 From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
      Jonah 1:17- 2:1

During lock down I have re-read various books.
One was a compendium by Frank Peretti
'This Present Darkness' and its sequel
'Piercing the Darkness'.
They depict prayer as a way of strengthening the angels
in their battle against demons.
As people pray, the angels literally become empowered,
as if prayer itself were directly responsible for an angel's strength.
I remember reading the first book many years ago,
and it did prompt me to pray -
I didn't want feeble angels guarding me!

The only problem is that this reduces prayer to magic.
It makes the prayer itself seem powerful, not God.
I had, for many years, this concept that prayer
is all about asking for something
when I'm in trouble
and all my efforts to fix things have ended in failure.

Then I would say some words and hope.
Maybe God would act and things would work out,
but more often than not they don't.

I went through a disappointing series of events in my life
and approached prayer in this way.
When I didn't get the answer I had hoped for
I would become disillusioned
If prayer is about getting something we want from God
and things don't work out as we'd hoped,
it leaves us with the impression that he's too busy to care.
It might cause us to wonder if he's there at all.

That's not prayer - not really.
Prayer is the deepest work of the human spirit,
and it's not about manipulating God to do what we want.

Prayer is a place where we commune with God.

It is a moment when we put aside the things
that are distracting us and bow before him.
It starts with submission to his authority
and acknowledge who he is.
It means putting aside what we want, if it is not his will.

The story of Jonah is the story of a man running from God.
He doesn't want what God wants.
We don't see him in prayer -
quite the opposite.
He doesn't want to go to Nineveh
and is actually hoping
that they will be judged and punished by God.
If he were interested in doing God's will
he would be on his knees in prayer from the beginning.

Prayer is the place where we humble ourselves
and ask for his will to be done, not ours.
It's the opposite of how we typically use prayer.
Jonah prays to the Lord from inside the fish (Jonah 2:1)
Something has happened -
Jonah came to accept that he is God's servant, and God is God.
He had to be broken first.
If we continue to read the story,
we see that Jonah's heart is changed.
His heart was in tune with the Lord's plans.
When he is coughed up he does what the Lord commands,
and it does bring the Ninevites to repentance,
which was the Lord's plan all along.

Prayer sometimes comes at desperate moments,
but it should always be with the understanding
that God knows what is best.
We are asked to bring our petitions before him,
but more importantly, to submit to his will.
It may not be what we ask,
but if this is the case, we have to change.
We pray,

'Your will be done.'

Not ours;
if we pray this, we will change,
we will long for the things he wants;
and we will find our prayer will be answered.