Part 3 in a series of 2 paragraph posts on prayer:
I’d like to believe there is a right way to pray. I want to be able to ask earnestly enough or pray for long enough so that my prayers will be effective enough to move the hand of God to do what I want. I know we have to pray to get what we want. I have to ask in order to receive. We are instructed to ask God for the things we want rather than to envy or grow bitter towards those who have what we want. Our prayers may not be very powerful in themselves, but if we don’t ask, we won’t receive. Just like if we don’t plant the seed, we’ll never get to eat the fruit.
But, alas, there isn’t a sure-fire method. I will never leave my prayer time satisfied that I’ve said enough or said it right. When I’m feeling desperate, I have a temptation to heap up empty words and phrases, thinking that I can persuade once and for all with my words. But Jesus tells us not to bother: God already knows what we need so we don’t have to explain it to him. He just wants us to ask and keep asking. The asking reminds us of his power and our dependence. The things we long for most in the world are not things we can purchase on Amazon or make with our hands. If we want a peaceful family, satisfaction in our work, contentment in our souls, we have to ask God. The clearest advice we get about prayer is that persistence is more effective than elegance. We keep asking. We mention it again. We don’t let God forget. Prayer is often pictured as a kind of scented incense that rises from our place on earth up to heaven. Our prayers are a scent that fills heaven. So we persist in prayer to make sure that the incense of our requests is continually before God. When I lose heart, I remember the image of Cornelius in Acts. He received a heavenly visitor who announced to him, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.” Cornelius persisted in praying and giving to the poor in the hope that someday God would acknowledge and respond. And God did. And so I, too, persist.