Prayer: Power or Person? (Part 1)

I come at this issue from a different paradigm than Sunday’s lesson. It seems like it was saying that the reason to pray is to get various benefits from it and to avoid the dire consequences if you don’t pray. The benefits are revival and reformation in your church, power, and positive change in your own life. And if you don’t pray, you will miss out on all those things and slide into apostasy.

I don’t see it that way. There’s truth in those ideas, but I don’t think it’s the most important truth.

Inspired by Hephzibah, My Delight

During the time in my life when I prayed the most, I prayed about fifty minutes every evening and loved it. Why did I do this? Because a Week of Prayer speaker had given me such a surprising vision of the incredible love of God that I simply wanted to talk to God on my walk back to my dorm room that night after the meeting.

So I stopped at a nice overlook of the campus and chatted with God for a while. I wanted to be around Him, around Someone Who loved me as intensely and tenderly as this speaker had described: he had explained that God called me hephzibah, “my delight,” and had gone deeply into what that means.

Sharing a Real Life, Not Just Requests

And so I ended up telling Him all about my day and about my various challenges in college, and, because of my beliefs and temperament, this praying wasn’t a series of requests as if talking to a genie but rather was a sharing of my heart and soul and life with Someone Who truly understood me and deserved my trust.

I was aware the whole time that God knew all about what I was describing and knew everything in my mind and knew what I was going to say, but I still wanted to talk to Him because of His love for me and because I felt perfectly accepted when talking to Him as I felt with no other.

Conversing with My Friend

I also asked Him questions and listened for the response and trusted that He was communicating something to my mind even if I didn’t hear an audible voice. I thought, “In a human conversation with a friend a would need to stop now and then and listen, so I should with God, too.”

And, in the end, I knelt down on the ground and just enjoyed the calmness and peace of the knowledge that I didn’t need to say anything at all, that He was just there, loving and accepting me. We just stayed quietly in communion or togetherness for a short time, and then I went inside and went to bed.

Praying and Losing Track of Time

And the next night, I had another fifty-minute time like that with Him. And not because I timed it. I just told Him what was going on, listened, communed, and then fifty minutes had passed when I finally looked at my watch. This went on night after night for many months, and I felt more like a complete human being or a real man than I ever had before.

My point is I wanted to be with Him, I enjoyed it, because I had been inspired by His love. I needed to share everything with Him. I needed to process what I was going through and get it out in the open and give it all to Him. It was not motivated by a desire for revival or power or evangelism goals. It was because of a desire for Him, because of a vision of His tenderness and passion for me.

There’s nothing wrong with having evangelism goals, but I think this lesson focuses too little on spending time with a Person and too much on getting power, which isn’t the way I think about prayer. What do you think?

In my next post, I’ll tell you what I think we can do to help people have better prayer lives. Until then…

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

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