I struggle with prayer. Prayer feels more like a concerted effort to Get God to See Me than it feels like a conversation or even an expectation for God to move on my or anyone's behalf. I feel badly asking Him to do anything, partly from the fear that He won't do it and partly from the fear that I will think that if He does it, it was somehow contingent on my effort. Both fears make little of God and much of me.
The more I read the Bible through the lenses of a forgiven, beloved, filled child of God, though, the more I see that the purpose of prayer is not the conversation.
The conversation happens, yes. The words matter, the asking and listening matter, the confession matters. But it is not the ultimate purpose.
Also, the more I see that the purpose of prayer is not to see the desired results.
The results matter, yes. The healing and life and cleansing that comes, these things matter. But they are not the ultimate purpose.
Paul says it like this to the church in Corinth:
"We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.
Indeed, we felt that we had receiv ed the sentence of death. But that was to
make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us
from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope
that he will deliver us again. You also must help us by prayer, so that many will
give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many."
I've always said my prayers with this in mind: I must help God know that I mean it. I must help with my prayer.
But Paul begins and finishes his plea with this: God will deliver and bless us.
The confidence is not in the prayer or the pray-ers, it is in the knowledge that God did deliver and will deliver, did bless and will bless. So pray, yes, but pray only so that others may see your relationship with Him is not contingent on ifs and possibilities, but on certainties.
This may not look like healing or wholeness or reconciliation while we're here on earth. To the unregenerate eye it may look like nothing has changed at all, but to we who are looking, we see it because we see beyond this life. And this is the testimony to those who do not know. Because our confidence is not in the result of the prayer, it is in the One Whom we worship. This is the testimony.
Faith in God.
Not faith in healing. Or deliverance. Or wholeness. Or forgiveness. Or met expectations.