Children, Snow, Janis Joplin and God: Thoughts on a Healthy Prayer Life

Posted: February 26, 2015 in 99-Uncategorized

Luke 11:1-13 — To the parents out there, have you ever had your child ask you if they could go out and play in the snow? And you tell them no, not now. And they repeat the process. And you do too. No, not now. No, not now. Children are often insanely persistent about asking permission about what they want to do. Can I have a cookie? Can you read me another bedtime story? Can I? Can I? Can I? Their persistence often wears us down as parents. Finally, we give in and give them what they want or let them do what they want. I know that when my kids were young, we would often mess with the kids by saying, it’s OK with me if its OK with your mom. And she would say, It’s OK with me if it is OK with your dad. Amazingly, the kids were willing to play the game and go scurrying back and forth between us for minutes on end. This is persistence personified. Persistence is the subject matter for our devotion today. Let’s look at vv. 5-10 of this passage. It also reminds you of stories about a mother who prayed for the salvation of her son for 20 years solid without fail daily. Do you have the persistence of a child wanting to go play in the snow when you pray?

Jesus, after teaching us how to pray in vv. 1-4, He goes on to teach a valuable spiritual lesson. Our prayer life should be consistent and persistent. We learn much about God and ourselves from persistent prayer. Jesus compares how our desire in prayer should be like a man persistently knocking on the door of his neighbor’s house when he has an urgent need. Persistence in prayer does three things for us I think. First, it shows that we are submitted to God. Second, it helps us to discern whether our prayers are self-centered or God-centered. Third, it demonstrates to us the power of God in our lives.

The level of our persistence in prayer is directly correlated to our submission to God. Do you pray only when called upon by others? Do you pray only when you have to? Do you pray only at the dinner table? Is your prayer life hit and miss and inconsistent? This passage is as convicting to me as it maybe to you. Our prayer life reflects how much stock we place in it. Do you really believe that God is listening? Do you really believe that God answers prayers? When we have a healthy and active prayer life it reflects how submitted we are to God. If your or my prayer life is hit and miss or just a perfunctory prayer life, it may be because you think you are the one in control of your life and not God. Maybe deep down inside you are not fully submitted to your Creator. Our prayer, when healthy, recognizes that we as humans are limited in knowledge and ability. We recognize that God is the omniscient, omnipresent, fully sovereign Creator of the universe and that we are submitted to Him. When we are persistent in prayer, we begin to recognize the proper order of things. God first. Us second. Not the other way around. When we come to that place of full submission to the Lord with no lingering strongholds of the areas of life that we think we personally control instead of giving it all to God, our prayer life will become more consistent, more persistent and, yes, more fruitful.

The second thing persistent prayer will allow us to see is whether our prayers are God-centered or self-centered. There was a satirical song about how we pray sometimes by Janis Joplin back in the day called “Mercedes Benz”. The chorus of the song goes like this:

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV ?

Is this song representative of your prayer life and mine. We pray for selfish things that we want like God is a vending machine. When our prayer life is not fully developed and persistent, these are the kind of prayers we pray. God I need. God please give me. If we are persistent in prayer we will find that we begin to drift away from these selfish kinds of prayers toward seeking God’s will. This is what we should be praying for when we pray. We are changed through persistent prayer. We pray not to change God but to change ourselves. We pray to seek God’s will, for God to reveal His will to us. Consistent and persistent prayer allows to see whether our prayers align with Scripture. The mother who prayed for 20 years for the salvation of her son is certainly aligned with Scripture. For the guy that is not content in his marriage praying for a way out of it through that cute chick at the gym is not in alignment with Scripture. Praying Janis Joplin Mercedes Benz prayers are not in alignment with Scirpture and not in alignment with God’s will. Those with poor prayer lives with pray these kinds of prayers. Consistent, persistent prayer allows us to see how selfish we can be at times. When we pray for another person’s eyes to be opened, consistent, persistent prayer about often leads to our eyes being opened about what that other person is going through. Prayer for a person to get paid back for what they have done to us often leads us to see that the other person is really a hurting soul that needs us to invest in their lives. Prayer changes us from self-seeking to God-seeking.

Finally, persistent, consistent prayer allows us to actually see God at work in our lives. When we are in constant prayer it raises our sensitivity to what God is doing in the world. When we don’t have a consistent, persistent prayer life we can’t see our prayers being answered. We can’t be sensitive to the ways that God answers prayers if we do not consistently, persistently pray. When we pray for God’s will in a situation, it actually attunes us to watch for what God does. As the old saying goes, you can’t win if you don’t play the game. Without consistent, persistent prayer we have no clue. Praying for your son’s salvation for 20 years will attune you to the little steps the little prods that God gives us along the way to salvation. You will be attuned to the softening of the heart. When we pray for God’s will, it turns our spiritual radar on. In our small group, we keep a journal of the prayers that we offer up to God during prayer time. It is amazing to go back several months later and see how God has answered prayers. It may not always be in the way that we thought God would do it but nonetheless we see the evidence of His answers. How can you turn a piece of steak into a healthy meal if you don’t put it on the grill? How can we see God at work if we don’t have a healthy prayer life.

Father, help us to improve our prayer lives. Help us to purposely find time each day to spend intimate time with you. Help us to learn to stay with you in prayer. Help us to submit ourselves totally to you and recognize your Sovereignty through prayer. Help us to pray without ceasing. Amen.

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