In the first post on this topic, we looked at the five ways God can respond to our praying. We looked at the question: Is there ever a time to stop praying?
Answer: still yes.
In this post, let’s begin to explore when our praying can actually get in the way. Our way.
Jonathan Edwards, one of the great Puritan American reformers (in fact, ranked #5 by one group), said
Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life.
He also warned against self-delusion. Certainly, people have the capacity to get themselves all ginned up during prayer–what he calls the “bubbling joy”–and, in so doing, go astray. From the resulting mixture of “self-confidence” and a “high opinion of themselves,” people are at risk of being swept up in their feelings.
Adults tend to think that teenagers are always swept up in their feelings. That’s it a natural state of being. It’s hard to argue with that point of view. But does that mean that adults don’t live in the same state?
So, for starters, here are 6 ways that even post-teens allow their feelings to confuse their prayer:
1. Believing that prayer is better than action
2. Preferring strong feelings over clear thinking
3. Minimizing others’ thoughts over our own “opinion”
4. Rejecting the reality that God is sometimes mute in response to our prayer
5. Giving more credence to “waiting in prayer” than “moving in faith”
6. Over-spiritualizing prayer while under-appreciating works
Praying: Vexing Stuff
You know, there are times when it’s just plain painful attempting to articulate what’s on my mind. The theologian in me (I have a Masters of Christian Studies to prove it) wants to provide chapter and verse to support multiple viewpoints. The writer in me wants the prose to flow beautifully. The youth pastor in me wants to make these blog posts drop-dead useful and applicable. And then there’s real life: limited time, competing responsibilities, meetings to attend, a job to do, a family to love, exercise that needs doing, etc. So, I just need to get this out to you.
Are there times in our lives when it is appropriate, maybe even necessary, to just stop praying? Yes, I think so. Are we, as a family of believers, open to considering this question? Even if I’m the only one that thinks about it?
Well, I guess time will tell.
Your turn. Has praying ever functioned as a delay-mechanism for you? A distraction? What are your thoughts?
Time to stop praying? Is there ever a time to stop praying?
Most of the time we think that God has a couple of options for answering our prayers, not unlike parents might answer their children’s requests:
But when you think about it, that’s not really how God works, is it? Particularly on the “Yes” side of the equation. Let’s delve deeper.
3. Yes, but not now.
4. Yes, but not like you were thinking.
My experience of God’s answers to prayer far more frequently fall into the 3rd and 4th categories. I sometimes wonder if even the 1st option, no, is actually more often a 3 or 4, in disguise.
After 4 Comes 5
And then there’s the 5th option, of which I am very well acquainted. Are you ready for it? Okay, then. Here you go:
What do you think of it?
What do you mean, you don’t know what to think of it? What’s not to understand? Fine. I’ll repeat it:
Oh, I get it. You were expecting to see something written in that space, right? Both times. Well, it is there.
The 5th option God has is silence. The non-answer answer.
When Prayer Takes One For The Team
In Exodus 14, we see at least one clear indication of when God moves from option 5–silence–and tells his people to stop praying. In fact, we see God actually gets tired of the “crying out” by the Israelites, so Moses is instructed to get the folks off of their knees and MOVING. Right after Moses has told everyone to be still.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in there about a heavenly operational procedure: MOVE.
This isn’t to say that prayer, as such, is an unworthy enterprise. Hardly. Scripture is full–FULL–of commendations to prayer.
In The Quiet Hours Of Praying
Nevertheless, for much of my faith journey, God’s principal reply to my prayers has been with the 5th option. In the history of the church, this has not been uncommon. But in the age of cable television and streaming worship services, one could too easily conclude that God is like a cosmic Amazon or eBay, where our prayers work like orders in His cue. We pray; miracles result. God is at work.
But moving forward when the path is unclear and the answers ephemeral, that’s difficult. And sometimes, like with Moses and the Israelites, that’s exactly what’s expected of us. It just doesn’t play well on television.
What’s your story? Have you had periods of silence to your praying? Long periods? What have you learned during these times?