By: Sarah Norman
We are a culture that is constantly plugged in. We are always consuming media of some sort, social media, podcasts, radio, TV, news, and books. We plug ourselves into all these things then allow them to shape the people we are, allow them to shape what our lives look like, what we believe, what we stand for. So often, as we are plugged into the influencers and important people of today's world, we forget who it is we should be plugged into. It's easy to allow ourselves to be swayed one way or another by the people we are constantly listening to without seeking God. Rather than first turning on the news, opening your phone, consulting social media, we should first and foremost turn to God.
We see this modeled in scripture by Jesus. Jesus was revolutionary in so many ways, the most impactful being making God the Father accessible to people. Jesus showed his disciples that prayer wasn't just part of a religious ritual, it wasn't empty words repeated over and over. Prayer was a relationship with God the Father. Jesus took time to pray before He did anything else. Mark 1:35 tells us “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” This wasn't just a ritual for him. No one gets up super early in the morning for something that isn't meaningful to them. Jesus got up because He needed that connection with God.
This is not something that comes easy to us. We live in a world that tells us to do what works for us, “you do you”. I know I have said this often, and sometimes it is good advice. Not everyone is suppose to be living out their spiritual life the same. But, at the same time, prayer and a relationship with God is not optional for those of us who claim Christ as our Savior. So then, if it's not optional, what does that look like? How do we pray?
Jesus explains those answers for us. Typically when we think about prayer, we think about asking God for things, wanting to bend God's will to ours. Or we ask, but don't really expect an answer, wondering if God is really listening. Sometimes we even wonder if there's a point when we've prayed for something for so long. Justin made several great points in Sunday's sermon about our typical approach to prayer and how we so often get it wrong. First, Jesus tells us how not to pray. In Matthew 6, he tells us to not be like the hypocrites, praying loudly for all to hear how righteous you are. Jesus is not impressed by our big words, by our intellect, by the time commitment, or by the social spectacle we can sometimes make of prayer. Jesus tells us to go in a room, shut the door and pray in secret. He wants us to get rid of distractions and focus on Him. I am a mom. This is a hard concept, as I am sure it is for many of you. Getting in a room, completely by myself and no one interrupting, that is almost impossible. I don't really know the practicality of this, but I think the biggest point is that He wants us focused on Him, not on everything around us, not on the notifications on our phones, not on the constant lists we make in our heads of all the things we have to do, but on God. No one does this perfect, we're not asked to be perfect, but we are asked to try.
I think so often when we come to God in prayer, it can seem like God is not listening to us. It's where the grocery list of prayers idea comes in. We ask for all the things we want or think we need and then we're done and then we do it again the next day and the next and eventually wonder if God is listening because nothing seems to be happening. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:7-8 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them for your Father knows what you need before you ask him,” (emphasis mine). When we pray, God already knows what we need. He knows our hearts, he knows what we will ask and he knows what's best for us. Do you believe that? Honestly I wonder. I wrestle with God knowing what's best because so often I think I know what's best for my life and I wonder why God doesn't do it, why it seems like He is silent. There have been times in my life when God clearly said no to something I thought was exactly what I needed. I have been blessed with the hindsight to look back and see that God actually did know best in those situations because my life would have looked drastically different otherwise. So when I have those clear examples, why is it still so hard? I think it can be hard because I'm constantly plugged into things other than God.
When I listen to things other than God, I forget that God's will is rarely what the will of this world is. What makes sense to God, doesn't make sense to us. Jesus goes on in Matthew 6 to say “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” God's kingdom does not look like this world's. All we have to do is turn on the news or open Facebook or Twitter to see that the world is vastly different than God's kingdom. And I don't believe it's our job to make the entire world look like God's kingdom, but we can allow God to transform our own lives into what God's kingdom should look like. That transformation starts with prayer and a relationship with God.
We don't pray to change God's mind. God is God. He knows what we need before we ask. He knows what we need even when we don't ask. And I honestly believe He will give us what we need whether or not we ask. Prayer is about surrender. It's about surrendering our wills to God's will. It's about allowing God to change our hearts and make us more like Him. It's about seeking God first, and allowing God to show us how we can live our lives best for Him. We cannot learn this on social media. We are not able to learn this from books, (aside from the Bible). We will not learn this from movies or TV. We will not learn this from reading the news. We learn this from seeking God and surrendering to God. We learn this by asking God what His will is and not by telling God what our will is.
God wants a relationship with you. His word is full of examples of how Jesus was in relationship with God the Father. As Christians, we are suppose to follow in Jesus' footsteps. Jesus modeled this relationship for us so that we could live in the freedom of seeking God's will for our lives rather than constantly living in the bondage of the webs we create.
How tangled are you in the webs of your own creation? Are you willing to surrender to God's will for your life?