Wednesday, May 14, 2008

prayer: the smell of freshly baked bread

"When I'm in trouble I ring a friend and pour out my woes, and at the end she inevitably says, 'Have you prayed?'
'Oh, yeah ... '"
(Di Warren, Equip)

Not all that long ago, I realised how reluctant I am to pray. Feeling discouraged by a mountain of unfinished tasks, I ran around trying to fix things, berated myself for my failures, and complained to anyone who would listen. I forgot to pray.

But Di reminded me that instead of planning and worrying and despairing, God invites us to pray.

Carmelina Read, who spoke next, asked us to close our eyes and think about how the word prayer makes us feel (try it now!).* She reminded us that it's not that we have to pray, but that we get to pray. How wonderful that:
  • God listens to our prayers as eagerly as he listened to the prayers of his Son Jesus (Jn. 11:41-42; Gal. 4:6-7);
  • God delights in our prayers: they rise before him like the sweet perfume of incense, the smell of baking bread wafting from the oven, or the delicious fragrance of freshly brewed coffee (Rev. 8:3-4);
  • God catches our prayers up into his sovereign plans, so that the ordinary prayers of ordinary people make a difference (Ex. 32:14; Phil. 1:19; Jam. 5:16-18);
  • Jesus and the Spirit are always praying for us: our prayers are in God's hands (Rom. 8:26-27, 34).
She encouraged us to start small: not to get up at 4:00 and pray for 2 hours, which will lead to a cycle of guilt and failure, but to attempt perhaps 2-5 minutes a day at first.

Which brings us to Tuesday morning, when I was feeling exhausted after a weekend in Sydney, sad about Steve's Dad's illness, and worried about too many commitments. What did I do? I prayed.

It felt odd at first. What could I say to God? "I feel worried?" But as I prayed about my family, my year, and my commitments, anxiety was replaced with God's peace.

Next time you are troubled? Try praying. Your prayers are the smell of freshly baked bread to your heavenly Father.

* Her answer? Guilty. My answers? Frustrated, empty, lonely. I guess God has seemed a long way away recently.

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