Last week I mentioned that I don’t consider myself a “prayer”, meaning that I don’t generally feel comfortable praying for long periods of time. However, this week I learned something that has helped me understand prayer in a new way, and I’d like to share it with you.
Part of my challenge with prayer, as I mentioned last week, is that I feel like I should be “doing” something. Of course prayer IS “doing” something, but I’ve never really understood what prayer was doing. Can you relate?
I’ve read and heard many beautiful thoughts about prayer. Each of these I felt were correct, but I still did not understand what prayer was accomplishing.
You see I’ve prayed more prayers where the answer was “No” than prayers that the answer was “Yes”. (I’m not even including the “Wait” answers.) This is probably the experience of most people, but I’ve not asked. I know that I was using the wrong words — God’s answers are not based on my performance as a prayer. But with the tract record I had, I began to wonder what I was accomplishing through my prayers.
One of the most difficult Scriptures about prayer for me was Luke 18:1-8: the Persistent Widow.
“And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?” (verse 7)
“If God knows what I need and what is best for me,” I reasoned, “am I not doubting Him by continuing to pray about this issue?” I know that God does not answer just because I have prayed a certain number of times about something, so why do I need to be persistent?
Now let me share with you a bit of science. This week I read the first chapter of the book The Brain That Changes Itself. It is about the science of brain plasticity, the fact that all our lives, our brains can learn to use different areas to accomplish tasks. The first chapter discusses, among other things, the recovery of a man who had had a massive stroke. His recovery was so complete that he went from being unable to speak or walk to teaching at the university level once again.
As I was thinking about how amazing God’s creation (the brain) is, the Holy Spirit opened a couple of neurons in my brain and let two thoughts merge. Here was my answer about persistence in prayer. Persistence was what made it possible for that man to recover — which took a year. Prayer, I realized, really did change you — more so than what most people think. Persistent prayer trains my brain to rely on God for everything.
I was so excited, but the lesson was not over. The next thought was of Thomas, specifically of John 20:29.
Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
A clear rebuke. For many years, I’ve let my prayer life languish because I did not understand how or why it worked or what it did. I was not praying in faith. I had faith in God, but not in the means He put at my disposal.
I’m excited that I could share the information about brain plasticity with you, and I hope that for you it is not the rebuke it was to me. Prayer in one of the means God is using to transform our minds. Keep lifting yourself and your prayers to God that He might change you into the image of Jesus.