Prayer, a time to ask and a time to listen
In writing to the Philippians, Paul encourages them to pray (Phil. 4:6),“ Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” In his letter to the Thessalonians (1Thess. 5:17) he urges them to “never stop praying”. And again in similar fashion Paul encourages the Ephesians (6:18) and the Colossians (4:2) to be in constant prayer. In Romans, Paul notes that at times we are uncertain as to what we should pray, but this uncertainty is no reason not to continue to pray, for the Spirit will plead on our behalf (Rom. 8: 26-27). These are just a sample of New Testament verses that encourage, if not compel us to pray. Recently we have noted that in Matthews prelude to the Lord’s Prayer Jesus says, (Matt. 6:5,6 and 7) “when you pray”. There is no sense that prayer is an optional extra for the disciples of Jesus. That is us.
There are a number of passages in the Bible that I find quite humorous despite their seriousness. Isaiah 44 and 46 are a couple of these passages. In chapter 44 Isaiah highlights the stupidity of manmade idols and their impotence. For example, we find these words referring to idols, (44:18) “They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand”. In a similar fashion after crafting images out of silver and gold we read, (46: 7-8) “They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Even though someone cries out to it, it cannot answer; it cannot save them from their troubles”. Praying to them is a waste of breath as they neither hear nor answer prayers.
This is in stark contrast to God our heavenly Father who hears and answers our prayers. In 1 John 5:14-15 we find these words of encouragement, “and we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. ‘And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for”.
We worship a living God, the one and only true God. He invites us into his presence in prayer. We know he takes the time to listen to us. But, do we take time as we pray to listen to Him?