Monday Morning Devotion-October 7, 2019
Prayer-A Psychological Trick?
"I say to God, my rock. 'Why have you forgotten me?' " Psalm 42:9
I came across this devotion written almost seven years ago to the day (October 8, 2012), started reading it again and thinking were you brave enough to write that or should we call it foolish enough? Then as I re-read it I saw why it not only has appeal but, to use an old-time-phrase "hits-the-nail-on-the-head."
Once again, I am calling on the fascinating book "Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home" by Richard Foster for a little help. I call the book fascinating because of its subject matter. I have long practiced and been fascinated by prayer. I have experienced great joy and peace and a strong measure of comfort through prayer. Likewise, I've had frustration, anger and puzzlement while praying.
When the latter happens I wonder is it me causing this situation? What is not right with me? Conversely, I have taken the poor little me approach. "God why are you doing this?" Then I start patting myself on the back for all the good things I have done and postulating why I don't deserve for God to ignore me.
In the chapter, "Prayer of the Forsaken" Foster addresses this. In these times he writes: "Nagging questions assail us with a force they never had before. Is prayer only a psychological trick? Does evil ultimately win out? Is there any real meaning in the universe? Does God really love me? "
I don't know if I have asked any of those exact questions, but they are in line with underlying feelings I have experienced. That's why, when I read them I was hanging on the next sentence, waiting to read the follow-up paragraph.
Foster wrote: "Through all of this, paradoxically, God is purifying our faith by threatening to destroy it. We know more deeply than ever before our capacity for infinite self-deception. Slowly we are being taken off of vain securities and false allegiances. Our trust in all exterior and interior results is being shattered so that we can learn faith in God alone. Through our barrenness of soul God is producing detachment, humility, patience, perseverance."
But, God I don't want to be patient. I don't want to persevere. I want answers. I want action. Right now!
Couldn't blame God if he answered "Excuuuuse Me." Then proceeded with what he told Job. "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me if you understand who marked off its dimensions."
In other words, "Little Shot, who are you to question Me, the Almighty? I'll answer that piddly little old prayer of yours, when and if, I get ready."
Somehow, I don't think that is what our Heavenly Father is saying when we don't feel like we are getting immediate attention, or maybe in our despair, feel we are not being paid attention to at all.
So, then, is prayer just a psychological trick? Are we fooling ourselves into thinking that God is listening and will provide relief, answers, solutions to our problems? Is there a God up there at all?
Yes, we have too much evidence in our lives that there is a God, so we can drop that line. But are we tricking ourselves into thinking that He cares, and prayer can help solve the problem. No, it is not a trick. There are too many good things that have been gifted to us by a Heavenly Father who cares for us to believe anything contrary to that.
This brings us to the question of what to do when we are experiencing feelings of abandonment. When the doors to heaven are shut and we can't find our key, what do we do? Foster says this is the time to begin praying the "Prayer of Complaint."
The ancients began this type of prayer with the Lament Psalms. Those singers knew how to do it. They would lay out their anguish and frustration. But at the same time, they would praise Him. "God whom I praise, break your silence." (Psalm 109:1). "I'm here praying to you every morning why do you reject me? Why do you hide your face from me?"
What these prayers teach us to do is to pray our "inner conflicts and contradictions." As Foster says, "They give us permission to shake our fist at God one moment and break into doxology the next."
What happens is when we keep on praying with this constant longing for answers and a show of desiring God's love we begin to change. We "love God more than the gifts God brings."
To get to that point we pray our Prayer of Complaint. Here's a sample that Foster offers. Could even be a model for our own personal prayer:
"GOD, WHERE ARE YOU!? What have I done to make you hide from me? Are you playing cat and mouse with me, or are your purposes larger than my perceptions? I feel alone, lost, forsaken.
You are the God who majors in revealing yourself. You showed yourself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Moses wanted to know what you looked like, you obliged him. Why them and not me?
I am tired of praying, I am tired of asking, I am tired of waiting. But, I will keep on praying and asking and waiting because I have nowhere else to go.
Jesus, you too, knew the loneliness of the desert and the isolation of the cross. And it is through your forsaken prayer that I speak these words. Amen. "
Bold prayer. Prayer of Complaint. Are you brave enough to pray it? Or do you think you are unworthy of praying in this manner. Maybe you have no complaints. Then, you are truly blessed
Our children/grandchildren certainly never feel they aren't entitled to be heard by their parents and grandparents. Aren't we entitled to register our complaints? Yes, we are, but we have to trust God first, then have faith that there will be an answer. We may be learning a difficult lesson. The timing might not be right. Whatever.
But we can be assured that prayer is not a psychological trick. Our Father is hearing those prayers and formulating a plan. In the meantime, our consistent prayers are shaping us in ways that will make us ready to receive His answers. Time and again those answers have been proven to provide us with the best solution to our problems.
Monday Prayer: Thank you Lord for the assurance that you never forsake us, and you always have answers even to our Prayers of Complaint. Amen!