Friday, April 8, 2016

Before Praying

We encounter folks every day who need us to stand in their presence as a caring disciple of Jesus.  Only those blinded by pre-occupation with gratifying the ego fail to see.  The 5th chapter of John tells us of one such moment in the life of Jesus. Waiting by the pool called Bethsaida was a man who had suffered from an illness for thirty-eight years.  Jesus knew the man was waiting and hoping to benefit  from a tradition which said the first one in the water when it was stirred up would be healed.  In that setting Jesus asked what seems to be an absurd question.  "Do you want to be made well?"  (John 5:6)  Actually, this question empty of presumption was the first step toward caring for the needs of this suffering man.
Too often we pray according to perceived assumptions instead of a person's needs.  Years ago when I started offering what I called "A Service of Prayers for Healing," I learned the value of asking those who came for prayer a simple question, "How can I pray for you?"  I discovered through this experience that what I assumed was not always on the heart of those who came for prayer.  And another thing I am still in the process of learning has to do with asking God, "How do You want me to pray for this person?" and then listening instead of charging forth on my own.  I always remember the first time I did this.  A woman came into the office whose marriage was falling down around her.  Before praying aloud I quietly asked God for help and then in what might have seemed like an unproductive silence I listened until I heard the word, "Peace."  Her response to my praying that day assured me God had hit the nail on the head.
As one who is nothing more than a student in the classroom of prayer, I really do want God to be at the center of my praying.  We are surely alike in that desire.  It is not always easy.  It often takes more time than I want to commit.  But, Jesus, did teach us to pray, "...Thy will be done..."  which makes it more than worthwhile to spend the time and effort needed to learn that will before praying.

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