there’s two primary ways of which prayer is often viewed in the christian church. the first being (i think) most common- a way to which someone comes to God by asking of him something (in a sense, as a servant comes to a master.) or with the expectation that our prayer has the power to change Gods will.
the second being a way of direct conversation with God. a primary way to deepen a relationship.
the first doesn’t sit well with me in and of itself, and never has, because i believe God to be love itself, in Loves complete wholeness, interchangeable with being the wholeness of relationship. seeing God as this mighty guy in the sky with a cookie jar contradicted that. it makes him seem like a control freak. the assumption that we, limited humans, could change God's unchanging will didn't make sense either. whatever happens is always supposed to happen, so what’s the deal?
i reached this conclusion for a while that prayer is similar to a conversation with a human on earth. i come to him with my deepest longings, my thoughts, my joys, my likes, my dislikes. really anything. i share my life with him. and why? because it’s establishing a deeper relationship between us. i can’t get to know God if i don’t talk to him, right? and having a conversation also includes listening. moments of silence. quieting my mind to the present and then letting my thoughts be known and allowing myself to hear God. i want to do this because i know he cares about my heart. and how do i know he cares? i have to choose to believe he does. when i don’t choose, i don’t talk to him. not to mention all the proof he gave us through how he lived his life on earth.
SO what was getting to me then, was the question-what does praying for people actually do? i get praying for me, sharing my life with God means a deeper relationship with him, getting to know him. but why pray for others if God's will is always going to happen anyway?
here’s where it gets interesting...
prayer is the participation in a relationship with God, which makes praying for others participating in a relationship with them AND God, increasing my capacity to love and expanding my capacity for a greater celebration during the outcome.
let me explain...
when i get to know God, i’m allowing God to see me-i’m exposing myself to his presence, a presence of total goodness, and allowing him to mold my “wretchedness,” my humanity in a magnificent perfect sculpture. in him we’re made perfect. (hebrews 10:14) he knows my heart, and wants to kiss it ever softly with his love undying. he is relentless with me, compassion floods his heart for me and he desires to listen to every piece of it and take all the grossness out delicately or rigorously. and it’s the same for every individual.
his heart wants theirs no matter their wants for him.
when we bring someone else into our conversation with God we’re adding on another relationship. and since God knows their heart, their heart begins to be revealed to us and become a part of our heart. knowing their heart allows me to love them deeper. again, relationship.
praying for others doesn’t mean that it’s going to change the outcome to become what i want. i ultimately have no idea what good is, i’m not the creator of it. it simply means i am invited into a deeper purpose of a wider experience of love and joy amongst both my horizontal (human) relationships and my vertical (God) relationship. it is God’s heart being revealed.
praying for others is asked of us not with the indication we have the power to heal or change but so both our trust in God and our capacity for a greater celebration is increased, no matter the will of God and if we agree with it.
we learn to have genuine compassion for others and we then proceed into conversation with God about it. why? because again, conversation is how a deeper bond forms. it’s how two get to know the hearts of each other. it’s the weaving of two hearts becoming one.
(john chapter 17 is a great example of this.)
if i did not pray for someone-the will of God will still happen despite me, but if i’m given the opportunity for increased joy, love, peace then i want it! i want to celebrate with the whole of me in a glory unexplainable. in God’s tangible power and love. his goodness, despite the sorrow that may be amidst it. and during those times when i’m groaning to the Lord with pain in my soul? with anxiety or anger or fear? he is a friend. a companion. there to give me instant comfort if even in a way we didn’t expect.
my compassion is met by the breath of God. i am actively witnessing the heart of jesus.
proof of jesus working in and around us.
SO what happens if someone comes up to me asking for prayer about a thing i don’t care about? i simply can not say “yeah! i'll pray for you!” then walk away and never do it. or throw some words into the sky and move along. that’s what often happens, and it’s called dismissive behavior not prayer. that’s when “prayer” becomes religious. nothing makes me angrier than sacred practices turned into inauthentic, foolishness.
but here’s the thing. i can’t control them. i can’t focus on that even still because as soon as i do i’m just as unloving as they seem to me. i’m dismissing the fact that i often do the same exact thing. and those moments are to prove my need for God.
so what do i do when someone asks for prayer? i find what real about the prayer. i seek understanding, so when i pray, it’s genuine. my heart feels for them, and thus my love for them and awe of God expands.
and here’s the thing, if i don’t feel like praying God still asks me to pray and since he IS goodness, that’s where faith comes in. trusting Goodness knows what is good for me. so i pray, and while coming into the presence of Him he begins to reawaken in me genuine wanting once again.
in the words of my good friend c.s. lewis: “do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor; act as if you did. when you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” now, apply the same thing to praying for others or praying in general.
it’s literally the most intimate place we can be with God. it’s direct contact with him. and it’s precious, and real. and the place i can be completely and vulnerably myself without any question of right or wrong. simply to come to him, letting him know my heart and allowing him to show me his. he prepares me in the present for any outcome in the future-no matter what happens-for as i get to know him, he makes me more like him. and i get to know him by prayer.