Prayer: Does God Answer Retroactively?

I am puzzled tonight about the mysteries of prayer–the unknowable things about how prayer works.  How I wish that Jesus would have explained it more.

I had a strange experience today.  I had sent a text to my oldest girl, asking how her day was going.  She replied that she had a huge anatomy test during the 3rd block of classes.  I know she has been working hard at getting ready for this test.  I texted her back that I would pray.

And then I forgot to pray.

At around 2:00 (after the high school is dismissed) I remembered.  I felt terrible that I had forgotten to pray.  But even more than that, I began to think about prayer.  HOw does it work?  Since I forgot to pray, could I still say a quick prayer and God would answer retrospectively?

Here is what I know:  I remain confused and frustrated with wrapping my mind around God and the subject of time; also, God and the subject of hearing prayers.  I know He answers prayers, but how does He hear them all, and what does time (knowing that God operates outside of time) have to do with prayer?

I also know that God is not Santa Claus, he is not a magician.  He won’t “magically go back and change answers on Keli’s test” because I pray.  That would be ridiculous.

I pulled out my favorite book on Prayer, simply titled Prayer by Philip Yancey, and while I found re-reading many of the highlighting that I did in that book, I didn’t find what I was searching for.

Maybe that’s just it.  Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to wrap my mind around these questions.  But being the person I am, it is very hard not to ask these questions time and time again as they bounce around inside of my mind.

However: 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! (Psalm 66:20)

Cultivating Stillness

Maybe you are like me.  My mind seems to never be still.  I lie awake at night struggling to sleep because I can’t still my mind  Or I wake up at 5 to spend time with my God, and yet I can’t still my mind down enough to be able to still my soul, creating a sense of….of….Inadequacy, or even failure.  Or something like that.

I’m currently reading Jesus Through MIddle Eastern eyes.  I’ve sampled some of the chapters when I have done specific scripture work addressed in this book, but I’ve never read the whole thing through.  I’m finding it to be very thought-provoking.  I do not agree with all of the author’s (Kenneth E. Bailey) interpretations, but I’m gaining invaluable background of Middle Eastern culture that permeates the gospels.  It’s one thing to read the gospel’s through a western mentality, it’s quite another to read them with even the small amount of Middle Eastern cultural understanding that I am gaining from reading this book.

But that is the background for what I want to write about tonight:  Cultivating Stillness.  This is a subject that is selfishly important to me, because I struggle with it so.  In my reading on the The Lord’s Pray in Bailey’s book, I was struck by this quote of Isaac Syrian:

“In the seventh century, Isaac Syrian wrote about “stillness”, which in his writings has been summarized as “a deliberate denial of the gift of words for the sake of achieving inner silence, in the midst of which a person can hear the presence of God.  It is standing, unceasingly, silent, and prayerfully before God.”

Oh, to be able to achieve that level of silence in my soul, where I could hear the presence of God.  Note that Syrian does not say “sense” or “feel” the presence of God, but “hear” the presence of God.  What a gift!  What would that sound like?  Would it sound like peace?  Would it sound like shhh?  Would it sound like Joy?

And note how we are to be before God: standing, unceasingly, silent and prayerfully.  Standing—standing fast. 1 Thess 3:8.   Unceasingly—-continually, patiently.  Silent–without words, with stillness of mind and soul.  Prayerfully—anticipatory, relationship, waiting.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 puts it this way:  “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven, and you upon the earth; therefore let your words be few.”

My words are often not “few”.  Often they are “many”.  Pages and pages and pages of my thoughts on scripture, my thoughts on God, my prayers to God.  The volume that I write is tremendous.  But my words are so inadequate for my God, and often are a way to run from Him, not to Him.  I read a tweet this week by someone-I don’t remember who-that stated that we can stuff our heads full of facts and knowledge about God, yet completely miss a relationship with our Abba, Father.  I know that to be truth.

I imagine I will always struggle with stillness of my mind and soul.  For many reasons.  But I hope to work at cultivating stillness before my God in the mornings because I want these words to be truth for me:

“Before the Day” by Newsong

Last night when I was sleeping

You were watching over me

While I dreamt about tomorrow

You knew my every need 

Now another day is waiting 

For me to make it through 

And there’s no way that I could face it without You 

Before the day slips away 

I want to stop and say I love You I love You 

Before the world rushes in again 

I want to stop and say there’s none above You 

There’s none above You 

I’ll just be still and know You are God 

Be still and know You are God 

There’s something about the morning 

The stillness of it all 

It calms my heart to hear You 

When You gently call 

Here I am in Your presence 

Where I long to be 

Alone with You in the silence 

Bring down Your love and Your mercy 

Whisper softly to me

Prayer–Does it Make Any Difference?

Phillip Yancey’s book “Prayer; Does it Make Any Difference”  Is currently on sale for the Kindle at the price of $3.99.

If you struggle with doubt, with prayer, with Christianity, then I urge you to read this book.  It was a key book in opening my mind up to the possibility of there being a God.  Yancey does not mince words, he is direct in his writing.  I often felt, while reading this book, that Yancey was writing and addressing my questions personally.

Dealing with Disappointment, Discouragement and Depression

A Blog is an interesting phenomena.  There’s a certain amount of vulnerability in blogging.  Should one be completely honest?

That’s where I am tonight.  I’ve had a most discouraging day, fighting to keep the monster of depression at bay.  I would have to say that it has been a failure of the day, and my only option now is to go to bed in hopes of redeeming the day tomorrow.

Tomorrow is the last day of 2011.  Another year is gone, another long year lays before me.  I truly appreciated and grasped on to Jon Bloom’s “Year End Prayer for Weary Waiters“.  Here is an excerpt, though I encourage you to read the entire prayer:

O Jesus! When will “soon” be? We know that you are not slow to fulfill your promise “as some count slowness” (2 Peter 3:9). Forgive us when it feels slow to us. You know we are dust (Psalm 103:14) and that our brief years are full of toil and trouble (Psalm 90:10). Many of us are weary and struggle to keep perspective. Our indwelling sin plus trouble plus waiting tempts us to cynicism as “soon” unfolds over millennia. We do believe, Jesus; help our unbelief (Mark 9:24)!

So our prayer at this year’s end is simply, “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20)! We will wait for you as long as it takes. We trust that you will come when the time is full. May that time be soon. You said it would be. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus

I, like so many others, am a weary waiter.  It has been a long life.  I long for home.  I long for Jesus’ return.  On the day that I go home, the fight against doubt and unbelief will be over.  The fight against depression will be over.  The fight against failure will be over.  The fight for joy will be over, because I will inhabit a joy unspeakable, unexplainable, unfathomable.

I’m not a patient waiter.