I occasionally talk myself through things, chastise myself for something I said or did, or mumble a complaint under my breath. I’m sure you’ve done this as well. You’ll be busy doing something, and suddenly speak out loud to yourself. My favorite – I set my water glass down somewhere and my instinct whispers that the position is a bad idea, but I do it anyway. A few minutes later I reach for something and smack the water glass, spilling the water all over whatever I’m working on. Out of my mouth comes the words, “You dummy – what did you do that for!” You’ve done that too, right? Why do we do that? Just doesn’t make sense to me … but we do.
I’ve noticed in the past several months that I talk to God much like I talk to myself. No real plan, just a sudden burst like, “God, help me with this … I’m not sure what to do” or something similar. The other day I prayed my way up 10 flights of stairs because I didn’t want to get out of the stairwell and take the elevator – that would be giving up on my goal, after all. All the way up I prayed, “God, please help me make it to my floor, help me breathe correctly, don’t let me give up, help me get healthy and do the right thing.” It wasn’t until I opened the stairwell door at my floor that I realized I had whispered that prayer aloud the entire way up those awful stairs!
As I was making my way to my desk, panting and willing my heart rate to get back to normal, I wondered if that prayer was inappropriate. Was it ok to ask God to help me with something so trivial and nearly ridiculous? Was I breaking some sort of rule about when and what to ask God for?
The next morning, my devotional reading was about Elisha and the miracles he performed. None of them were spectacular, like Moses parting the Red Sea, they were normal, every day needs that for whatever reason were impossible for those receiving the blessing. Helping a widow pay her debts, feeding a large group of prophets when there was little food available, helping a young man get an ax head he had borrowed and couldn’t afford to replace out of a deep lake. Simple, ordinary, every day needs. And God led Elisha to perform miracles to help them! (Read 2 Kings 4:1-7, 38-44 and 6:1-7)
I realized that through the devotional, God was answering my question about whether praying my way up the stairs was right or not by showing me that He helped other people long before me with their simple needs too. And it IS ok to reach out to Him for every day, ordinary needs. As I meditated on that revelation, I realized that prayer has become second nature to me. I thought about all the times I find myself praying for someone, or some situation, throughout the day without realizing I had started praying. Honestly, if I were to count the prayers, they would probably number in the hundreds each day.
Our church has a group of folks who meet on Wednesday evenings to pray. Our list is full of folks who are sick, church ministries, missionaries, leadership – both our church and world governments, and oh so many other needs – it’s overwhelming sometimes to read through the names and the challenges they are facing. Besides that list, I have one of my own with friends, coworkers, loved ones who have asked for prayers, or who I know are facing a challenge they can’t handle on their own. If those lists were combined, they would probably be several pages long. Each time a prayer is answered, I thank God for His help. And then I add another need to the list.
There is power in prayer. God does hear and answer them – though sometimes not in the way we might imagine. I’ve learned to ask for help with the need, and that God answer as He sees best – that His will be done in the lives of those I am praying for.
There is so much joy and comfort in the act of praying. Prayer is a gift from God – a way for us to talk with Him about whatever, or whoever, is on our hearts. Even those ordinary needs …. or perhaps especially those ordinary needs. How can I pray for you? Is there a challenge you just can’t handle – an unspoken need?
“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name. May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.” Psalm 33:20-22