there was a teenage girl in the dentist office yesterday
she was waiting with her mom, texting like crazy
and her mom's phone beeped
and her mom ignored it
and she's like "moooooooom. You got a text"
and she's like "well I'll get it in a bit, it's probably not urgent"
and the girl said "MOM, when you get a text, it's ALWAYS URGENT"
There is a false sense of urgency when it comes to communicating with technology today. It used to be that when you left the house, no one could reach you until you came home. Voicemail, email, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and texting have changed all that. As I think about how quickly I respond when my phone beeps, it makes me consider how my expectation of instant feedback influences my perception of prayer.
The new pastor at my church once compared praying continuously to God to texting regularly throughout the day. It's an interesting comparison to be sure, but do we need God to respond immediately for us to feel he's heard us? What happens when God makes us wait for our answers? Do we slow down sending our messages or give up altogether?
I have always been taught that a regular prayer life is essential to following Christ, but I have struggled at times with keeping a dialogue going with someone who doesn't audibly speak back. During times of darkness and suffering, praying becomes even harder for me. Not only am I not hearing anything, but the stakes are much higher. I'm not asking for nice weather on a vacation or a convenient parking spot. Requests made of God during suffering are serious and, in my opinion, urgent.
This past week was an especially difficult one for me. I had come to the point where I felt like my prayers did not matter, my opinions and feelings disregarded, my messages to God pushed aside. It was as if I had inwardly given up on the power of prayer, going through the motions but feeling defeated before I began. This inward sense of halfhearted begging seemed insurmountable to me until I read about David's prayers for his firstborn son with Bathsheba.
God had already told David through a prophet that his son, the product of an adulterous affair, would die. David, repenting of the affair and of murdering Bathsheba's husband, prayed to God to spare his son's life. He didn't just bow his head and ask quietly. He fasted, wept, and threw himself on the ground in complete desperation. Why did he bother when God had already spoken? After his son died, David explained that while his son was still alive, he thought there was a chance God could relent and spare the child.
The Bible study I'm doing caused me to stop and think about the boldness of that prayer. David had committed the sins of adultery and murder. He was obviously in the wrong and had not repented on his own for many months. God finally confronted him, showed him mercy by sparing his own life and his kingdom, and still David prayed for more mercy. As it turned out, God did indeed give David blessing through another son born to Bathsheba - the future King Solomon.
If I had been David, I think I would have simply grieved the inevitable. God had spoken. Who am I to try to ask for more? To try to avoid my consequences? This is how I pray now - as if the Lord has spoken and I am a passive object with no say in the matter.
The study notes pointed out that we all should pray passionately as David prayed.
- "Through David's crisis, he was reminded of all he knew of God's ways. David did not plead with God out of ignorance or naivete, but out of his intimate knowledge of God. God does indeed hear our prayers and reserves the right to relent if the change does not compromise an eternal necessity."
For proof, I was guided to look up the story of Moses interceding for Israel in Exodus 33:3, 15-17 as well as Hezekiah pleading for God to extend his life when he was about to die in Isaiah 38:1-5.
These stories of God responding to human prayers gave me renewed strength to pray. This time, I am praying with boldness and expect to be heard and for God to respond. Maybe he won't respond as quickly as I feel he should or in the ways that might seem most obvious, but I'm newly motivated when I read that God's heart is moved to action by faithful, fervent prayers.
The study went on to summarize:
- "David knew something about his God that we need to realize as well. God did not create man in His own image to be unaffected by him. More than any other creature, we are products not of His head, but of His heart. Numerous times in Scripture God responds to the needs of His people with the words, "I have heard your cry."
If you have run out of steam in your prayer life and feel that God is ignoring your urgent messages to him, don't fall for the lie that your prayers aren't making a difference. Jesus encourages us to be persistent in our prayers - to always pray and not give up.
And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.