By Marilyn Schouten
Italics from Celebration of Discipline. The Path to Spiritual Growth, by Richard Foster
"To understand that the work of prayer involves a learning process saves us from arrogantly dismissing it as false or unreal. If we turn on our television set and it does not work, we do not declare that there are not such things as electronic frequencies in the air or on the cable. We assume something is wrong, something we can find and correct. We check the plug, switch, circuitry until we discover what is blocking the flow of this mysterious energy that transmits pictures. We know the problem has been found and fixed by seeing whether or not the TV works. It is the same with prayer. We can determine if we are praying correctly if the requests come to pass. If not, we look for the "block;" perhaps we are praying wrongly, perhaps something within us needs changing, perhaps, there are new principles of prayer to be learned, perhaps patience and persistence are needed. We listen, make the necessary adjustments, and try again. We can know that our prayers are being answered as surely as we can know that the television set is working."
Taking inventory of our prayer habits and prayer without ceasing is something we should review on a daily basis. If you have not seen the newest VGF video on prayer, you should take a minute to view it, it is tremendous. Prayer to me is like breathing. As many times as I take a breath in a day, I feel in my heart that I am breathing in and out prayers to the Father.
It is a second nature to me and I trust that it is with you. Though at times I talk out loud, each and every request is made known to God the Father, not to anything or anyone else. I do not know what I would do if I did not have the creator of the universe, the One that breathed all things into existence to call upon, cry out to and shout praises of joy!!!! I would collapse under the strain of life!!!! I suppose this focus on prayer is in the front of my mind because of sharing this personal example. Ninety percent of you know the story of our 9 year prayer-miracle for "the house across the street from the church" and how that came as a blessing from the Lord. Some of you may know that we have been working on the old house to ready it for sell. Over the entire 9 years of prayer for the new house, in those same breaths of praying, I have always known that the Lord had specifically someone in mind for the old house and since I am not "all knowing," I have deemed it necessary to share examples with the Lord as to who should own our old house and when! And we thought we were right on many occasions....and at times, we thought our timing was a little more perfect than that of the Lord! I also prayed that the Lord would bring the correct person to us so that we did not have to go through the process of putting the house on the market, open houses and showing the house as "you know how busy we are Lord, and we just don't have the time for that process...." (Did you ever lay out all your "stuff" before the Lord and tell Him the things that He didn't know about you or your life?!!!) Well, out of the blue last Saturday I received a text from someone I did not know was looking for a house. They inquired of us about the house and now we are officially in contract for the sell of our old house. Okay, so YEA and PRAISE THE LORD, right! It is truly an amazing story once again! Well, as I reflect back to all my praying and our prayers for the timing of this sell....here's what I have learned: IF my prayers would have been answered in the timing and way that I prayed in the past.....the house would have sold years ago, we would have missed out on the opportunity for "the house across the street from the church." Our house would have been sold and because of the 9 month remodel phase, we would have been in a rental home....pressed terribly and under great pressure. IF my prayers would have been answered according to my plan, things would have been a lot more hectic and out of control. Whereas, now it IS the perfect timing! Right now, things are falling into place! It is the perfect time.
So what does that mean for my praying....were all those prayers wrong? Were they for naught? Of course not! Those prayers teach me great lessons of faith....I take inventory as Richard Foster puts it....check the plug, check my motives, understand the Lord's control and timing, learn lessons of patience and especially persistence, learn to listen, and try again....pray again and again and again. Too many times in this daily walk we give up on prayer and just say...."it must not be the Lord's will." When in fact, it very well could be the Lord's will for you, you just have more to learn BEFORE it is yours to claim as a fulfilled promise. As long as there is breath in your life, there should be prayer. As long as the Lord tarries in answering your prayers for a specific thing or event....understand that HIS timing is perfect and there is a reason. As Richard Foster reflects, "to understand that the work of prayer involves a learning process saves us from arrogantly dismissing it as false or unreal." I take the opportunity when praying to lift scripture verses to the Lord, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the councel of the ungodly nor standeth in the way of sinners nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in this law doth he meditate day and night...." I figure what better way to talk to Jesus than to utilize the words that come from Him. When I need to break a terrible thought cycle in my mind....I recite....trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight....and when I am fearful in waiting on God....I pray, let not your heart be troubled, trust in God, trust also in me." Prayer is the secret to a joyful, giving, loving intimate heart after God. The challenge is to "talk to God....PRAY!" In Christ Alone, Marilyn Schouten