Help me understand why you pray

(31 Posts)
DiamondStuds Mon 11-Feb-13 09:52:57

I have been a Christian for over 20yrs and like many, my prayer life has had moments of feast and famine. I have been struggling though for many months.
I can't understand any more what the point of asking for things is. I understand that's not the only type of prayer and see plenty of need to say sorry and thank you but does asking for things really make a difference? I mean things like healing, the children wanting to come to church, relationships, work situations and so on.
God has a plan so why would this make a difference? He knows our desires so would he not want to grant them anyway?
Someone told me once that praying helps us to become more in tune with God's plan. Therefore me asking for something doesn't make it any more likely.

Can anyone help me resolve this?

PeachTown Mon 11-Feb-13 10:02:56

Philip Yancey's 'Prayer - does is make any difference?' might be a good read for you.

noisytoys Mon 11-Feb-13 10:05:25

I pray because it is a way to take time out of the hectic schedule of the day and just be still. It focuses the mind, it's calming and it feels like I am having a conversation with my maker and father. The same reason why I read the Bible when I have read it many times before

PeachTown Mon 11-Feb-13 10:08:28

But in answer to your question I find God does answer me. The Bible tells us to ask, even though God knows what we need before we ask.

DiamondStuds Mon 11-Feb-13 10:37:59

Thank you both.

PeachTown - that book sounds just what I need!

If God knows what we want to ask for, why doesn't he respond anyway? I know he loves us more than we can imagine so can't understand.

zulubump Mon 11-Feb-13 11:41:53

I have the Philip Yancey prayer book and can recommend it. For me I think it's important to actually take the time to pray rather than just thinking "oh well God already knows what I want so I don't need to". That's not meant to be critical by the way, I am rubbish at praying most of the time! I go to a housegroup and we often pray out loud together at the end. I used to find it really awkward (and still often do) but I have found it so touching when I hear people pray out loud for me, for something that I am struggling with. So it's encouraged me to do the same for others, because just thinking good thoughts for others isn't the same as having the courage to speak it out, if you see what I mean! And I guess praying through somethings just helps me to clarify what it is I'm worrying about and to feel that I'm not on my own with it. That God is in it with me. It doesn't always work so easily though and sometimes I just end up frustrated! I hope you can continue DiamondStuds!

The bishop of Chelmsford on his February blog here http://www.chelmsford.anglican.org/ is very thought provoking. For me prayer is about transformation although I've never thought of it as being like an onion that is being pickled!

DiamondStuds Mon 11-Feb-13 11:53:00

Thank you zulubump , that's helpful.

I am still able to pray and will lead prayers but it's prayers of request I struggle with. I know God will work for the overall good anyway so why ask God to be with the sick or bring my children to the church?

I'll try and order that book....

DiamondStuds Mon 11-Feb-13 11:53:41

Thank you greenheart - I'll take a look at that too.

Writehand Mon 11-Feb-13 12:05:35

My immediate reaction -- so perhaps not the deepest -- is that if you're asking for external things to change -- the children wanting to come to church, relationships, work situations -- of course it won't work and you'll feel empty. Prayer isn't like sending a list up the chimney for Father Christmas.

I find it easiest to explain by using a real example. My husband got cancer, and it took almost exactly a year from diagnosis to death. We never had any hope: it was a terminal diagnosis from the off.

I prayed a lot during this time. Luckily I have a home office at the bottom of the garden where I could count on being undisturbed. What I prayed for was a bit like this:

Dear God, this is so hard for me. Please help me find the strength I need to carry him through this, the strength to help his precious children. I am so weak and I need to be strong.

It was all about asking God to open my heart, give me access to that "second wind" of emotional strength within me. I never asked for the cancer to go away: that's not what prayer's about. It's about how you respond to the problem. And it's amazing when you get there. When you pray in extremis you reach a still place that feels full of acceptance, where you are held in the palm of His hand. Prayers of gratitude are very important: they lead you to a place of openness and enable happiness.

It worked for me. But I have to say that I can only pray like that when forced to by a crisis. I'm lazy about praying when life is humdrum. I'm a Christian because I was brought up a Christian, but I'm really just a Deist.

DiamondStuds Mon 11-Feb-13 12:22:34

Writehand - thank you for sharing that. It makes perfect sense.

So many people in similar positions though would pray for healing. I'm not sure they are wrong to do that as anything is possible for God. Maybe the best prayer of all though is "Thy will be done".

Writehand Mon 11-Feb-13 12:42:10

Diamond Studs says: So many people in similar positions though would pray for healing. I'm not sure they are wrong to do that as anything is possible for God.

I can't pray like that. It seems very clear to me that God doesn't affect the normal course of life -- accident, disease or natural disaster. If praying for a cure worked -- if even 10% fewer people who were prayed for died than people who weren't prayed for surely it would corrupt prayer? Prayer would end up being a sort of insurance: if I pray then there's less chance my loved ones will die prematurely.

Maybe the best prayer of all though is "Thy will be done".

Yes, essentially, though I don't see my DH's death as God's will. I don't think God intervenes in the natural course of events. Its motion is integral to its nature. The planet is as it is, our frail bodies are as they are. When we pray we reach out to an immense consciousness who welcomes our approach, who loves and accepts us, who wants us to be the best we can, and who will provide emotional support if we lay ourselves open to Him when all else seems to fail.

For any convinced sceptics, I am quite prepared to believe that the solace I find in prayer is a psychological trick my mind plays on itself. I can only go on how I feel, and how my experience has helped me.

DiamondStuds Mon 11-Feb-13 13:04:53

Sorry my suggestion of "Thy will be done" was not meant to suggests that your DH's death was God's will. I apologise if it came across that way. I think what this thread has helped me realise is that prayer is to help become closer to God in our own individual circumstances on every bit of a very broad spectrum that includes tragedy, celebration, worry, hope amongst others.

niminypiminy Mon 11-Feb-13 16:08:23

Sometimes it can be worth telling God what you want so that you actually find out what you do want from a situation. Not in the sense of 'please send me a parking space', but because by giving a situation to God you are helped to see it differently and better, and to understand more deeply your own wishes and desires.

I also find Michael Ramsay's advice very comforting: if you can't say 'I want you' to God, perhaps you can say, 'I want to want you', or perhaps even 'I want to want to want you'. I think Stephen Cottrell is really right when he says that really prayer is a love-relationship. Sometimes, as in any relationship, 'I want to want to want you' is as much as you feel there is, but keeping going in those moments what makes the relationship shift and deepen.

MadHairDay Mon 11-Feb-13 17:06:46

I think I see prayer as conversation. I've always found Brother Lawrence's 'Practise of the Presence of God' a really helpful model in both prayer and life - the idea that every moment, all that we do, is soaked in God's presence, and that we can be aware of that - through the mundane as well as the spectacular, through washing up as well as 'prayer time'.

For me faith in God is a relationship, and relationships are sustained through communication. I therefore witter away to God through my day. I like a seperate time to pray as well, as it helps me centre and get through the day, and I do also believe that God does intervene and does answer prayer - not always how we would think or hope. I think prayer is a spiritual discipline, but it can also be incredibly freeing to go through the day with the attitude that prayer is simply communication with the God I am in relationship with.

I do ask God for healing (have been chronically sick all my life) and will not give up asking, but also think that sometimes God doesn't heal. I have seen people healed, and have seen people not healed. I cannot pretend to understand, but I don't think God is the sort of God that heals someone if enough people pray or if a certain prayer is prayed. I think God sees where our heart is and our heart towards God - praying is simply voicing something of this.

It's listening too - it's conversation. I mostly don't 'hear' anything, certainly not audibly. But thoughts, impressions, bible verses may come to mind and it feels like God's communicating. The more I pray, the more this happens - communication is the key to relationship.

Don't know if that all makes any sense....hope you feel more able to pray soon, OP, and I do understand where you're coming from - have thought along the same lines. And also recommend the Philip Yancey book.

Adversecamber Mon 11-Feb-13 17:14:09

An incredibly wise and wonderful lay preacher I know said never to pray for things, not to ask for anything in particular but to pray for the strength to get through whatever life throws at you.

IndigoBarbie Mon 11-Feb-13 21:18:20

Hi, I'd say I pray to get stuff off my chest. Sometimes I go over situations so many times in my own head that it really does annoy me, and so, I give it all over to the invisibles. Also, I do it in the style of gratitude already happening:
Thankyou for helping me out with xyz. Thankyou for guiding me to trust in my heart. Thankyou for helping me see that the things that annoy me in others - are actually things that annoy me about myself. Thank you for my healing. I'd like to share that it's important to hold a positive vision for 'what you want' rather than affirming what you don't want. If you can hold the highest possible outcome for your request, then say 'this, or something better.'

I'm not sure exactly how much I think God plans our lives for us - I think we each have our own plans, witnessed by God. I don't have a clue how this relates to any religious thoughts or teachings, but I believe that each of us is a part of God, and that when we pray - we are taking responsibility for our own actions, and requesting vibrational assistance from God/Creator/Angels, loved ones to help us meet our plan etc.

I actually do most of my praying in the car when I am driving, and then I just let my thoughts go. As another poster said - the communication comes to you in thoughts, and in other ways.

You mentioned you are not sure on what the point of asking for things is? It's important (imo) to remember that you can pray for what ever you want, but the answers don't always arrive as you expect them to. If you let go of 'how' the prayer should be answered, you might just be pleasantly surprised. Sometimes prayers are answered in stages, and it's only by listening to our inner vibes and thoughts and nudges, that set us on the next step to completing our prayer requests and seeing them come to fruition. Another way to think of this is, Is there something you keep meaning to do, or thinking about and you just dismiss it? This could be the next step for you, and in taking it, might just lead to something else which could fulfil your request smile xxx with love xxx

DiamondStuds Mon 11-Feb-13 21:29:01

Thank you for your further responses - all helpful.

IndigoBarbie - you are right about prayers not necessarily having the solutions we envisage. My Dad is an alcoholic and about 10yrs ago I was praying about the situation. In my head I was hoping that Dad would come to realise that he needed to stop drinking as his health was in serious danger and also his relationships with my mum, me and my brothers as well as wider friends and family. In the end what happened was that he had a fit, was admitted to hospital and was sectioned. This made me almost frightened of prayer for a while but now with hindsight - even though Dad is drinking again (although not as much) - I can see that this was an answer to prayer.

As for "conversational prayer", yes I do have times of doing this. I think it's more how to handle crises as they arise - such as illnesses. Maybe I just need to start by praying for help with these situations when they arise and learn to hand them over to God rather than thinking I know the ideal solution.

lemontruffles Tue 12-Feb-13 08:30:21

For me prayer is a way to develop a deep relationship with God, and to become aware of his plans in our lives. However, I'm like you Diamond, and have often wondered why do we pray if God already has a plan for us, and knows what will happen before we even start praying.

The nearest I can get to an answer, of sorts, is by using an idea of God as a parent. As a parent myself, and especially when the kids were little, I could quite often anticipate what they wanted, but I tended to let them realise themselves what they were after, and ask for it, rather than me jumping in and fulfilling all their wants almost before they'd registered them themselves. I knew that they needed to understand their wants for themselves in order to grow, and become independent and mature.

As a parent I can't protect my children from things that happen to them in life, bad things will always be around sadly, but I hope I can try to support them through the hard times. The stronger my relationship is with them, the easier it is for them to trust me and be comforted and guided in the bad times. This understanding about myself as a parent helps me pray, in order to gradually develop a stronger relationship with God.

I think part of the reason we need to ask God for what we want is for our own personal growth, and that by praying part of what we are doing is trying to put ourselves more and more into the mind and intentions of God.

I am a recent convert to prayer, so these are just my personal perceptions.

Writehand I'm so sorry to hear of your husband's death. To hear how praying helped you was very moving.

DiamondStuds I pray a little in all kinds of situations. I do pray for things, as Jesus said in the Lord's prayer to pray for our daily bread... I also pray for things like how to feel better about situations, to turn them over to God. I am not sure that I ever would believe bad things happening was God's will, so when I pray the Lord's prayer and it says your will be done on earth... I think it for me means that earth would be perfect like heaven, a place where justice rolls down like rivers. So sometimes God is going to ask me to help to answer my own prayers... by making myself more flexible, by helping those in need, by action on behalf of those oppressed etc.

Prayer for me is one of the few things that makes sense of the senseless bits of life, not by excusing them or making them better, but just by ushering God into our every day situations.

I pray in the car, in the bath, on loo, desperate type 'oh help me' prayers. I pray out loud in groups to talk to God with others, and I enjoy it. For me it is a part of my faith that doesn't require too much effort, it is like breathing. But sitting in a very long prayer meeting would be harder! How does God answer my prayers, I am just not sure, but I guess I must believe that even in the praying there is some value. It also makes it easier to bare the sad times, to know that God is there.

jaynebxl Sat 16-Feb-13 07:14:05

I think from the Bible that we are supposed to actually ask for things too. See Matt 7, and also the Lord's Prayer. It doesn't mean we always get what we ask for but I see it as showing God our dependency on him.

HellesBelles396 Tue 19-Feb-13 09:45:17

I find prayer difficult and as a result, I feel very self-conscious when praying alone though I feel comfortable leading prayer. I think, perhaps, I am a visual person so I pray in amagea rather than words and send those to God.

When I can't pray in any meaningful way I say the Lord's Prayer - I really say it. As in thinking about every word and every phrase. I find images fall into my head of what each phrase represents to me at that time.

Sometimes I just say thank you, help me, forgive me over and over and mean it.

jaynebxl Tue 19-Feb-13 14:45:06

That sounds great HellesBelles.

Hellesbelles can I ask, please, what's amagea?

jaynebxl Wed 20-Feb-13 07:25:20

I thought it probably meant images but she was maybe typing on a phone?

HellesBelles396 Wed 20-Feb-13 10:59:01

It is, indeed, the new, ultra-cool word my phone uses instead of images!!

jaynebxl Wed 20-Feb-13 16:52:52

One day it might make it into the dictionary! My MIL now always signs her texts to DH nun since predictive text kept changing her typing of mum to nun anyway!

Hellesbelles ha ha - amagea - I googled it with dictionary on line and it came up with picture dictionary sites, how cool is that.

I also put amagea into many languages on Google translate. I was a bit insomniac last night!

Did you want to know what amagea in Romanian is in English, Hellesbelles - delusion!

HellesBelles396 Wed 20-Feb-13 21:43:50

oh dear!

I thought it was amazing, to find a meaning in Romania for a typo in English!

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