When most Christians pray, it seems like begging. I guess begging – or beseeching, if I want to sound “preacherly” – has its place. You could certainly say Jesus begged God to “let this cup pass” in the Garden of Gethsemane. He begged so hard, he sweated blood! Yet, begging isn’t the only way to pray.
“Prayer begins not with who we are or what we want from God but with who God is and what God wants for us.” (Disciple’s Path Companion Reader, p. 29)
Prayer goes both ways. We communicate to God, sure; but God also talks to us. I feel this struggle when leading worship. I know we should be listening to God in prayer, but that takes silence. In a worship service, sometimes silence is the last thing people expect. The bigger the sanctuary, the larger the crowd, the less silence is welcomed. Where do you think we get the term “awkward silence?”
So, for prayer to be effective, it must allow space for God to get to us while we are approaching God.
“Prayer is not the process by which we get what we want from God, but the relationship in which God gets what God wants in and through us.” (Disciple’s Path Companion Reader, p. 29 – emphasis mine)
Prayer doesn’t change God. Prayer changes us! God is already working to “heal Aunt Sue.” God is already out there making a path for you to follow. So, praying doesn’t “wake God up” and make him take notice of our situation. He already knows.
When we pray, our awareness changes! We begin to see that God is at work. We acknowledge that life is more than the sum of human interactions. When we listen to God (rather than doing all the talking), we hear how and where God is working, what God is doing. And – we are invited to join his work. When prayer works, we are changed.