The prayer of the righteous person is powerful in what it can achieve. – James 5:16
“Prayer is the language of our relationship with God.” – DM
Today I have been thinking about prayer. I think I had heard myself say, “I’m praying for you,” or “this situation will be in our prayers,” or something similar for the umpteenth time in a couple of days and I realized how easily “praying for you” can not only appear but actually be a throwaway or a platitude.
I love this definition of a platitude:
“Used too often to be interesting or thoughtful…” Is that what people think when I tell them I’ve been praying or that I’m going to? Or does it actually mean something of substance when I say that I’m going to pray?
Communication with God:
I remember being frustrated a few years back in a Sunday morning class I was teaching. We had been talking about prayer and one of the participants said: “I don’t pray anymore; it doesn’t work.”
“What do you mean, ‘doesn’t work'”? I asked.
“Well, I tell God what I want, or need. Then I wait. But usually I don’t get what I’m asking for so now I don’t bother…”
“Maybe,” I offered as gently as possible, “getting what we want is not what prayer is about.”
He looked confused.
“Maybe prayer is actually about developing, or practicing, our relationship with God? What if you thought about prayer as the language of the relationship – then maybe it wouldn’t be so much like ordering room service?”
What does that look like?
My thought is that getting to know God on a deeper level is much like any other relationship. There is talking involved, yes, but there is also – hopefully – a lot more listening than talking. And then there’s a lot more “just hanging out” than there is conversation.
“Just hanging out” with God could involve simply acknowledging God’s presence. Like on my walk this morning, I looked around, took a deep breath of the beautiful spring air, and I thanked God that we could enjoy this together. Then God was pretty much a companion for the rest of the walk.
Then yesterday, at lunch with a friend, we acknowledged God’s participation in the meal in the blessing. God was absolutely with us and part of the conversation the remainder of the time we spent together.
Sometimes, like yesterday when I told my daughter I was going to pray for our grandson – who was having a rough evening – I used a lot of actual words and I spoke directly to God (who was already invited into the situation).
Mostly, though, my “prayer-life” is about me aligning myself, my work, my family, my intentions, my hopes and dreams – all of it – with my core desire to be a more deliberate disciple of Jesus and a more focused spiritual being.
Back to the original question:
So, back to where we started, how is my saying “I’m praying for you” not another platitude?
Well there’s this verse in James (we’ve been studying the Book of James in a couple of the men’s groups at WFPC) that points out the following: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Then I like the way Peterson phrases this in The Message – “The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with” (James 5:16).
If we are living a life of faith – remember the definition of faith is “belief expressed in action” – then prayer is a constant part of who we are and how we interact with everything. Because of that we become the kind of person God uses to share love and light and hope and grace and the constant invitation that is the good news about Jesus!
Following Jesus and wrapping all that we are and do in our desire to grow closer to God, and then understanding prayer as The Language of that Relationship. Now that is not a platitude, nor is it throwaway or trite.
“I am praying for you” brings all of that into play. That is a tremendous – and practical – promise to the one we are praying for – DEREK