Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Just a Little Talk

What do you think of when you hear the word prayer? Do you think of a formal address to God where you read your list of requests to Him? Do you think of something done by a child right before bedtime? Maybe you think of the long talk to “our Heavenly Father”, the preacher gives while your head is bowed and your eyes are closed.

Prayer is one of those words we use in church that is very misunderstood. Perhaps it is because of the word itself that we ignore the true purpose of the act. The word comes from the Latin word precor, which means, “to beg or entreat”. As the word evolved, it became preiere and eventually prayer.

The word precarious is a form of the same Latin root precor. In Latin, precarious means, “to obtain by entreaty”. The original meaning of our word precarious was “to be dependent on circumstances beyond one's control”. In modern language, we tend to use it to describe a dangerous situation.

The word prayer was very common in the time of the writing of the King James Bible. It was typically used as a request in the Old Testament. And Abram said unto Lot, Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren (Genesis 13:8). However, most of the time when it is used in the New Testament, it specifically refers to a conversation with God.

Maybe that is why we sometimes see prayer as a “to do” list for God. While I believe that God certainly wants to hear our requests, I also believe He wants us to truly communicate with Him. Sometimes we take Him a “grocery list” of things we want to obtain or happen and miss the true power and privilege of being able to talk with our creator.

Last week a lady called 911 to report she didn't get as much shrimp as she wanted in her fried rice at a Fort Worth-area restaurant. I heard the audiotape of the 911 emergency call, in which the customer is heard telling the dispatcher, "to get a police officer up here, what has to happen? He didn't even put extra shrimp in there." Restaurant workers said the woman had been denied a refund after leaving with her order, then returned to complain.

911 entertained the woman’s call. They listened to her and responded. However, this is not the kind of situation for which the emergency service is designed. The request was treated with respect, but was far below the intention and power of the service provided by 911.

When all we take to God is our “wish list”, we are heard and treated with respect. However, we are not honoring Him with good use of this privilege. What does God want from us in prayer? He just wants to hear from us. He knows the things we need before we ever ask for them (Matthew 6:8). What He truly wants from us is…well…US!

There are many things I already know about my children’s day before I see them in the evening. My wife and I talk during the day, and she tells me about things they have done or significant happenings. However, when I get home I usually ask the kids to tell me about those same things. I already know what happened, but I love to hear it from them. Likewise, God already knows what is going on in your life, but He would love to hear it from you.

The next time you begin to “pray”, speak to God as if you are talking to a good friend. Talk with Him in a familiar but respectful way. Yes, we can certainly tell Him about our troubles, but tell Him your hopes, dreams, fears, and blessings also. Remember that prayer is communication with Almighty God, not a means to whine before the throne.

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16b KJV)

The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. (James 5:16b The Message)

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