Growing up in Haydock was hard. Growing up Haydock and actively being part of the church even more so. The type of people there who were acquaintances of mine would be the least likely people you would find in church and they make this very clear. Never the less we got by as a group with only the occasional disagreement and remarks about me attending church. The reason I’m mentioning this is simple, there are many passages and quotes from the bible that reading I am reminded of a particularly more constructed challenges and how he was eluding to prayer being futile especially petitionary prayer. In my friend’s view if someone was to ask God for something, if what they asked was in God’s plan, it would happen anyway therefor praying was pointless, if it wasn’t part of God’s plan it wouldn’t happen therefor prayer is pointless.
This person was wrong.
Here are just a few verses of scripture that highlight this:
‘what ever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.’
‘whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the son.’
‘Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it will be opened to you.’
These are just a few examples of phrases and testimonies that the bible is full of. One of the ones that for me stands out the most is in the first book of kings chapter three where in verse 5, we hear God asking Solomon what it is he wishes God to do for him. I don’t doubt for a second that God already knew exactly what Solomon wanted and needed. God wants us to be close to him, to feel comfort around him, and to be able to be open with him.
This is what prayer is.
Last November I was sort of on pilgrimage…. I lived at the shrine so not really a pilgrimage but rather than working like any normal week I took part in Adoremus which is the young adults retreat. The retreat was in Jesuit spirituality and we were taught various ways to pray, but above all we were taught that there isn’t a one size fits all for prayer, different people pray in different ways. But most if not all of us if we are truly honest have at some point found it hard to pray. Praying can be hard. Praying is a conversation with God, which is why different people find different ways that they are more comfortable with, it’s a personal relationship with God and that relationship will be different for each of us, talking to God should be the simplest thing in the world but it’s difficult and emotional.
And why is that so?
Simply because for prayer to be done correctly the only thing that is needed is to be open and honest with God. That makes us vulnerable and no one likes feeling vulnerable. I know I don’t, it’s something I struggle with.
God has a plan for us and God knows all we need before we ask for it.
This may be sounding like I’m agreeing with my friend who made the comment about prayer being pointless but that is far from the case.
Think of a person who you love, could be a partner, a parent, sibling, a child or even a friend. That person knows you love them. And you know they love you and yet you still tell each other this. Why? Because we as humans need that intimacy we need the closeness that comes from sharing our emotions. But think of a person whom you love and would you still tell them you loved them if you weren’t sure they felt the same way?
That fear of rejection… The anxiety of opening up to someone.
This is what makes prayer difficult.
Putting ourselves in a position where our emotions are on show is hard because once it’s done there’s no going back. Hopefully the other person in the situation meets your vulnerability and builds you back up and this is what happens with prayer but so often what we pray for is not the root of our needs, it’s a cure of the symptoms not the illness.
Just imagine for a moment you have invited someone round to your house for a meal, you put your best china out, make sure the dinning room, kitchen and sitting room are spotless. Everything is great.
Except, what if I was to say, your house is your heart and the person you’ve invited round was God. While you’re off preparing the meal God looks around, he then comes across a door marked Private. This is the room where you’ve quickly piled up all the mess from the other rooms. This is where all your worries are. And this is where God is most needed and yet we try to hide this aspect from him. We hide them because we don’t want him to see our flaws and failings; this is our God so naturally we want to present the best version of ourselves that we can be.
But consider Luke 18:9-14
‘He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
God doesn’t want us to boast about our talents, he already knows as all our gifts come from him, he wants us to acknowledge our weaknesses as through that we come closer to him.
The worst part is we don’t even know what we will find in that room, it’s been so long since it’s had a clear out. It’s been so long since we have opened the door. But how can you clear the mess if you never open the door? How much easier would it be to clear that mess if you had help? All we have to do is ask God for what we need and he will deliver
But to truly know what we need, we must know ourselves not just the fine china of our strengths but we must also know the piles of clutter that hide behind that door, that are our weaknesses. Solomon knew his weaknesses; he prayed not for wisdom, he instead prayed that God would give him a listening heart. He went to the root of the problem rather than the symptom of the problem. If we only ask for help with the symptoms it may seem as though our prayers are not being answered when in fact they are… just the root is being helped rather than the symptom after all God does not want us to suffer.
And you may be wondering where my came into this… he was wrong about prayer being pointless as when you open yourself up to someone your relationship grows and whole new opportunities and memories come from them. And when you pray to God you grow closer to God but you also grow closer to yourself and you begin clearing out that back room.
So I pray that we may all be open and honest with God, that we may know ourselves and be able to ask for those things that we need.