Knock, Seek, Find.
One of the many questions that people ask me from time to time goes something like this, "How does prayer work? If I pray for something, and have enough faith--does that mean that God will give it to me?" The forms of that question vary, but the sentiment behind is always the same.
We all have this insane hope that our prayer really do work like the televangelists claim they do. Except, for the most part, the televangelists don't really believe in the power of prayer the way that you and I do---how could they? I imagine when prayer becomes a business, you probably don't see it the same way as most people.
I heard a story many years ago about how a prominent televangelist who would tell his viewers to send a prayer request in with a donation, and someone on his team (maybe even the televangelist himself) would pray for their request. An undercover news team snuck a camera into the mail room of said televangelist and filmed workers opening envelopes, taking out the cash and checks, and then throwing away the requests.
Those are the kinds of things that make you cynical--if you are inclined to that kind of thing, and sometimes I find myself trending that way when it comes to some of the nonsense that goes on in the name of Jesus.
So, in the interests of not being cynical, I have to ask myself a question: "Just because the televangelist was charlatan and a con-man, does it mean that the prayer requests those people wrote down on those sheets of paper and mailed in with their money didn't get heard by God?
Jesus had this weird interaction with his disciples about prayer. He said:
"Suppose one of you went to your friend's house at midnight and said to him, 'Friend loan me three loaves of bread. A friend of mine has come into town to visit me, but I have nothing for him to eat.' Your friend inside inside the house answers, 'Don't bother me! The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything.' I tell you, if friendship is not enough to make him get up to give you the bread, your boldness will make him get up and give you whatever you need. So I tell you, ask, and God will give to you. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will open for you." (Luke 11:5-9)
What Jesus seems to be saying here is, "God loves it when we keep talking, keeping asking, keep praying..." The visual image of a man banging on his neighbors' door until he opens up and shares his bread is an amazing way to describe our own relationship with God and with prayer.
I think that no matter what form your prayers take, the important thing is to pray, consistently, often, fervently, specifically and with great persistence. Our constant communication with God keeps us connected to God, and with God's will for us.
There's a bit of vagueness to Jesus description of what we'll receive for our persistence with prayer. He says that if we ask, God will give. If we search, God will help us find. If we knock, God will open the door for us.
I believe that when we stay in constant contact with God, when we keep bringing our petitions, boldly, persistently, something amazing happens: We discover new ways to see what we need, to refine our understanding of God's will, and to align our desires with God's desires. We find a new peace with waiting on God--a peace grounded in trust.
We also sometimes find that what we were looking for wasn't what we needed. Or we discover that by constantly being in communication and relationship with God, everything we need is simply God himself.
May you spend time today praying, connecting, knocking and seeking with God. May your day be filled with persistent conversations, with requests, with petitions to the One who loves to simply hear your voice. May you hear his voice in return, speaking to you from deep within your soul. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.