Friday, November 20, 2009

Pray Specifically or Pray Continually?

I love to walk. In my younger years, I was an outfitter, training others to hike the Appalachian Mountains or canoe down the Nolichucky River. There's great peace in walking the paths God has meticulously drawn in the hillsides.

After my children were born, hiking went by the wayside but eventually, as they reached adulthood, I walked again. Been at it for the past ten years, off and on.

Walking is where I talk to God. It's the place I come to find restoration and renewal. Grant you, I'm slow sometimes. Over the years, my lungs have grown weak with asthma, but I'm persistent. No matter how steep the climb, I just keep trudging until I reach the top. It's a slow continual process.

Recently my friend told me I needed to pray specifically. He said my prayers were...for lack of better words, too broad. That I asked God for too much provision because I assumed I knew exactly what was needed when maybe my requests were way too much for the need. He likened my prayers to a teenager saying, "Dad, I need a ride to the game. Will you buy me a car?" He said, "Pray specifically for daily needs."

Now, I get what he's saying, but I don't agree (that's what makes true friendship an adventure -- agreeing at times to disagree). We're all different in how we know God -- how we walk and talk with Him, how intimate our relationship is with Him. Perhaps it's the difference in men and women, but I pray "guesstimating"...assuming God knows I round off the figures.

I upholstered a couch once and when I measured the length of the couch, I stretched my arms and measured how many "arms lengths" the couch was. My girlfriend asked me in the store, "Did you measure the sofa?" I smiled and stretched out my arms--thought she would stroke on the spot. I unrolled the bolt of material, used my guesstimate and bought the material. When we were finished I'd over measured by 2 inches. Hummm....must be something to a "guesstimate."

But the fact is...God knows--whether I get it right or not. He knows accurately. All He asks me to do is to ALWAYS be joyful, CONTINUALLY pray, and BE THANKFUL...even when it hurts. (That's from the Cindy Version of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 - a guesstimation, I'm sure!)

My prayers always begin with praise and thanks. And when I pray for needs, that's what I do. Pray for the needs. Sometimes I try to reason what a project may cost, because TO ME...I can have a better grip on what we need to work toward. If the need is more, God will fill in the gaps. If it's less, He'll provide the right amount. Abundance, not over abundance. That's a detail GOD will handle, not me. My job is to pray. God's is to receive and answer or provide--whichever He sees fit.

The fact is, praying is a lot like walking. Some of us can sprint the mountain in no time, others meander. But some of us, love the walk, we just don't have the lungs for it. So we climb the mountain a few steps at a time. We stop frequently along the way because walk is hard--we even stop from time to time, gasping for air. But we never give up. We keep walking. One step at a time. Continually, joyfully; even when it's hard.

I'm sure my prayer life can be improved and I'll take my friends suggestions to heart. I'll add a few specifics for "daily" provision and not things that lay a few months down the road. But for the most part, God and I have a method. I bet you have one, too. And as long as I am obedient to His command to pray continually about everything coming and going, then He'll fill in the gaps because my Father knows me and my heart. He knows my prayers are not greedy. (But then, the flip side grandmother always taught me to pray for the sun and I might just get the moon.) Not a bad theory when you think about it.

The path up the mountain never changes. Neither do my lungs. But when I go to my the place where they get bloody, I don't think God cares how specific I am, just that I am laid before His feet. My friend doesn't often pray on his knees (He has bad knees, but is that really an excuse? That's a question for another day :) Praying on his knees is not his method of talking to God. But it is mine. We're different in how we pray, but alike in the fact that we pray continually.

I love to meet Him on the mountain and I especially love walking with my friend. To be more "specific," that's when God speaks to us joyfully and continually...without ceasing.

"The method is not as important as the prayer," she says as stops to take a breath then continues on.