Pointers on Prayer
By Maria Fontaine
Going slow and taking time to hear from the Lord
I’ve found that when I try to take things a bit more slowly, I don’t seem to need as long periods of rest because I’m taking it a little easier as I go. That’s a lot easier on you than if you just push, push, push, and then finally wear out. I think it’s much better if you can try to pace yourself as much as possible. If we go a bit slower, we can also take the time to be more prayerful.
So often when I stop and think and pray and reflect on things, the Lord brings very important things to my mind. Or He reminds me of important things that I had forgotten or would have forgotten, or He gives me good ideas during those times. And when He does, I realize that if I hadn’t stopped and hadn’t had that time, I would have missed that.
Whenever I’m reminded of that, I see the importance of taking time to stop and pray and think about things, to sort of tune in to the Lord, meditating and putting everything else out of my mind, and asking Him to bring whatever He wants to my remembrance. Often He brings very important things to my remembrance that I wouldn’t have gotten if I hadn’t stopped.
We need those times of talking to the Lord and freeing our minds of anything else, and asking Him, “Is there anything You want to remind us of, or any ideas or things we should pay attention to?” We can’t expect to get very many answers from the Lord unless we actually take time to stop and listen to Him.
With the multitude of decisions that we each have to make, we really need to seek the Lord for His guidance. There is just no way that we can make Spirit-led decisions without taking time with the Lord. And the more major the decisions are, the more time we usually have to spend with Him.
It takes time to think and pray about problems, to think about a situation in the stillness and quiet while we are alone, letting the Lord speak to us about it and guide our thoughts. The Lord could have made things so we could just come before Him with a list of our questions that need answering, and just rattle them off one by one, and receive answers one by one in a flash of revelation. But He has not made it that way since He wants us to think things out as He guides us.
He says, “Come, let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18 KJV) He likes to guide our thoughts as we meditate and pray, as well as in our deliberations and our counseling with others.
Prayerful and careful
A little lesson I have learned and relearned is that it doesn’t matter too much if we’re prayerful if we’re not careful as well. We can pray all we want and expect God to do His part, but if we don’t do our part, then He can’t fulfill His.
There was a situation that happened just recently in which I wasn’t as careful as I should have been, even though I had prayed. When I saw that things didn’t turn out as I had hoped, I said to the Lord, “But Lord, I prayed! How could You let this happen?” And immediately I got the answer: “Prayerfulness without carefulness won’t work.” You can’t expect the Lord to do everything for you. You need to do your part, cooperate, and do everything you can do.
Of course, this is a lesson that I already knew, but it was good to be reminded of it. And, on the other side, we can be very careful and try to do our best, but without prayer, the same thing may happen. We may be totally unsuccessful in our efforts because the Lord wants to teach us that without Him we can do nothing. We need to be both prayerful and careful.
Let the Lord work first
When I’m faced with a problem or problems—as most of us very often are—I’ve been too prone to have as a first reaction, “Lord, what can I do about this situation? What’s the answer? What can I do to alleviate the situation or help to solve it?” But my very first reaction should be to ask the Lord to work in the situation first and do what only He can do.
Of course, often the Lord does want us to do something right away, but at the same time, we should be very conscious of our need for His help, and we should be saying, “Lord, please work in this situation.” And then pray, “Lord, please help me to do my part.”
Too often I right away pray and ask the Lord what I can do, what solution should I put into effect. Whereas there’s a lot the Lord can do by His Spirit first, or at least do simultaneously with what He shows me to do.
When you can’t do anything but pray, it’s often easier to really commit things to prayer. But when you have the authority or power to do something about a situation, it often seems easier and quicker to try to sort it out yourself.
By involving ourselves immediately in a problem situation and doing what we can to solve things and “right the wrongs,” and fit all the pieces together, we may be usurping the Lord’s power and interfering with what He wants to do. This is the attitude that I unconsciously had, and the Lord showed me that while I may have the authority to do something about a situation, that isn’t always His highest will. The first and foremost thing we should do is ask Him to supernaturally work in the situation and change it according to His will. And then He can use us in the way that He wishes in the situation.
The Lord reminded me, “Wouldn’t it be better if you would first pray for Me to work in the situation? For Me to change the situation, to change hearts and attitudes, to supernaturally do something about it before you go in there doing things in the arm of the flesh?”
Too often we run ahead of the Lord, not giving Him time to work. We usurp His place and interfere with what He would like to do, interventions and miracles that He would like to be given all the glory and the credit for. Too often, we get in there and try to do things in our own strength without desperately asking Him, by His Holy Spirit, to do the work, and without realizing that our solutions aren’t going to do much good anyway if the Lord, by His Spirit, doesn’t work in people’s hearts.
It often seems easier for us to be busy and trying to decide what we should do about a situation than it is for us to be desperately praying and asking the Lord to work. It gives us a feeling of usefulness and we feel like we’re really doing the job because we’re coming up with answers and solutions.
Our first and primary prayer should be for the Lord to work in situations and people’s hearts and lives. After we’ve “committed our ways to the Lord,” and “cast our burdens on Him,” (Psalm 37:5; 55:22) then we can trust that He will guide us in whatever role He may have for us.
There is a time to wait and there is a time for quick action, and we need the Lord’s wisdom to discern what is needed. We often find that when we commit situations to the Lord and pray for Him to change things and we give Him time to work, He works in the situation and He will clearly show us what we can do, as well.
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