The most recent SoulPerSuit was a study of Colossians using Sandra Glahn's book Cappuccino with Colossians. The one thing that the group agreed on was that this letter from Paul was a very tough to study. It isn't a peanut butter & jelly sandwich kind of book but more like a Toulouse Cassoulet with a list of ingredients as long as your arm taking days to make.
About half way through the study I stalled. Prayer is not a major or even minor theme in Colossians but this is the topic that shut me down. The times prayer is mentioned (from my quick review of the book), it's not to exhort or instruct but to encourage (Colossians 1: 3-4, 9, 12; 4:12).
The reason I stalled is probably because prayer had been a slow stew in the back of my mind for quite a while. It was even difficult to admit to the group, near the end of the study, that I was struggling with prayer - prayer in all its basic and not so basic aspects, the validity and effectiveness of it. I couldn't imagine starting a conversation with, "I don't think I believe in prayer" without getting, "Are you kidding me?" in return.
When I finally got brave enough to think about what my struggles were with prayer, I was able to nail down where it was at. I don't have a problem with prayer as worship, praise, mediation, or contemplation. Where I struggle is with the requests - asking God to do something.
I've heard a wide range of things asked of God in prayer: to "open a door" or "give direction", to heal someone sick or with cancer, to come through with needed funds, or even to raise the dead. But do these prayers really have an impact? My struggle is this: if I don't ask God to heal my mother-in-law of cancer, will He not do it? Is my prayer necessary for that healing? I don't believe it is. So why do we make these prayers to ask for healing? Doesn't God have a plan? Isn't He working all things together for good? Then what role does my prayer play?
Now I know simply saying this might cause some of you to drop to your knees with wailing and gnashing of teeth, praying for my doubt but I'm not doubting prayer; I'm questioning its use. I believe I'm experiencing a healthy journey into the character of God and the practice of prayer. I mean, we've all got questions about it. Do a search on Amazon for books on prayer and see how many come up. Those books are popular for some reason. Obviously I'm not the first.
No, I don't believe prayer is fiction but maybe some of our uses of it are. That's what I'd like to find out.
I'm going to do my own study on prayer and try to discover what it is really used for, what power it has, and how we are instructed to use it. Don't ask me next week for an answer! I won't have it. I don't know if I'll ever have it but maybe I'll know God a little better. It couldn't leave me anymore confused than those 327,671 books on Amazon.
What are your questions about prayer?