I love the church sign: “To those of you praying for snow, please stop.” Amen brother.
There are many misuses of prayer. Sometimes we use prayer to avoid the truth. I would pray in high school before asking a girl out for a date: “Lord, thy will be done.” Apparently, God’s will was for her to say “no.” I would call a girl, and I was so lacking in confidence, I would weakly ask, “You don’t want to go out with me do you?” As a matter of fact, she didn’t. Who would want to date a guy who asked in such a weak, timid way? Praying “thy will be done” was my way of avoiding the truth.
Sometimes we misuse prayer as sanction. We want God to sanction something we are doing. I was asked to say a prayer before a high school football game one time. It was the most unholy moment of my life. The two teams were poised to hit each other in the mouth. The cheerleaders were in a pyramid formation, people had their mouths stuffed with popcorn, the band was poised to play the “National Anthem,” and somehow I am supposed to ask God to sanction this event. I love football as much as anybody, but I am not sure God does. The prayer wasn’t nearly as important to those in attendance as the marching band or the coin toss. So, I will leave praying before football games to others.
We also misuse prayer as instruction. Have you heard a prayer like this? “O Lord we pray for the Smith family whose house burned over the weekend and bless those who are willing to bring items of clothing to the church fellowship hall today at 3:00.” That is not prayer. You might as well make an announcement.
I’ve also heard prayer misused as manipulation. Such as: “Lord, help little Johnny to see the evil of his present behavior and help him to know that my desire for him is not just the wish of his dad but your will as well, and if he doesn’t straighten up, there will be consequences.”
We need to be careful not to view prayer as a transaction, where you say the right words and you get the right results. Prayer can’t be judged by whether or not it works. I have never liked the bumper sticker “Prayer Works.” You can’t judge prayer by results.
But, for most of my life I have viewed prayer that way—as some sort of transaction where it could be judged by whether or not it worked. When you view prayer like that, then you get into, well sometimes the answer to a prayer is “yes” and sometimes “no” and sometimes “later.” Then, did we pray enough or with enough faith or you know, if you just get on enough prayer lists, and on and on it goes. If you get on Facebook and everybody knows, then with 10,000 people praying, surely she will get better. I’ve heard all that.
So, what I’m saying is, I’m not sure that your prayers for snow or my prayers that it will stop are really prayers at all. (If they are, then they are cancelling each other out!) To me, the best example is Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before his death. He is really praying; the scripture says He fell on His face. Don’t get me wrong, I love “God is great; God is good, let us thank Him for our food.” But in the garden, Jesus is really praying. This is much deeper than “Now I lay me down to sleep.” He prayed: “If it be possible let this cup pass from me,” and he prayed “not my will but thine be done.” This sees prayer as more of a confessional approach in which we 1) Tell the truth to God and 2) Really pray for God’s will. Prayer as confession is telling God the truth that we feel deep in our soul and then trusting God to do what is best.
So, the truth is, I’m tired of snow, and I’m pretty sure that God’s will for us is no more snow. At least that’s how I’m praying.