March 17, 2016
Admittedly, when it comes to prayer, I have slowly let cynicism creep into my heart. Every day in Kenya I get to see and hear about endless stories that can only be described as miraculous, so why does God feel distant in prayer? When I stop to pray, I often have one of two thoughts: 1) This matter is too insignificant for God to care; I need to solve or endure this challenge on my own or 2) God will do as He pleases, and I can do nothing to affect the outcome. So, when something good happens, I find myself tempted to say, “Oh, that would have happened anyway.”
“The movement from naive optimism to cynicism is the new American journey. In naive optimism, we don't need to pray because everything is under control. In cynicism we can't pray because everything out of control, little is possible.” –Paul Miller
In this season of Lent, God has been taking me on a journey of prayer that has awoken a new passion for prayer and a greater awareness of my need for it. A Praying Life by Paul Miller is the book that has been a key influence in this journey. The book talks about prayer in a refreshing way that is Biblical and approachable.
When I am in Kenya, I hear the most earnest and desperate prayers for the most serious of requests. Mothers pleading with God to save their child’s life. Fathers earnestly asking they will find work to be able to provide food that night. That complete and utter dependence is the key to a life that is intimately connected to God. However, in the U.S., we strive to be dependent on no one but ourselves. We only turn to God in moments of true helplessness, which for many are few and far between. Paul Miller says in his book, “Learned desperation is the key to a praying life.” In the absence of true desperation, we must learn to recognize how truly fragile our lives are and how inadequate we are to live the life God has called us to live. That constant awareness of total dependence is a gift that we should all desire.
Miller proposes that when we pray, we need to do two things:
1. Ask boldly
2. Surrender completely
Our Father wants us to ask and express the desires of our heart. Even Jesus pleaded with God, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me.” But, we also need to surrender completely. In the same breath Jesus said, “yet not my will be done but yours.” When we do one without the other, we begin the journey toward cynicism.
I invite you on this journey away from a very proper and polished type of prayer to a place where we can call out in a very personal and messy way to a God, who invites us to do just that. Let’s marvel at the way God hears and responds to prayers. And, when the answer is not what we hoped for, let’s not grow cynical but trust God is writing a better story than we could ever imagine.
During this season of lent we want to invite you to join us in prayer around specific topics. We have created a prayer guide that you can access here.