Pray like you’re turning on the TV

zenith_space_commander_600When you pray, how much time do you spend praying for yourself? Your immediate family? People and situations you don’t have a vested interest in? What sort of expectations do you have when you pray? What do you think is going to happen?

Despite how many of us typically pray, prayer is not an indulgence in narcissistic self reflection. Nor it is a chance to remind God about doctrine.

Instead, it is an opportunity to worship our Creator and Savior. It is an opportunity to intercede on behalf of those in need, which may well include the one praying, but ought at least as often to be about someone else altogether. Despite what many of us have been taught, we pray to do more than just change our thinking.

We pray because we believe doing so causes the power of God to flow through us on its way to meet the need we have brought before God. Don’t listen to those who say this is to be metaphorically or mythologically representative of some other reality.

Instead, put your prayer life to the test. The test of a prayer is its efficacy – did what was intended come to pass? In everyday language, did it work? Did God do what you asked God to do? Richard Foster provides us with a nice analogy:

If we turn on our television set and it does not work, we do not declare that there are no such things as electronic frequencies in the air or on the cable. We assume something is wrong, something we can find and correct. We check the plug, switch, circuitry until we discover what is blocking the flow of this mysterious energy that transmits pictures. We know the problem has been found and fixed by seeing whether the TV works. It is the same with prayer. We can determine if we are praying correctly if the requests come to pass. If not, we look for the “block”; perhaps we are praying wrongly, perhaps something within us needs changing, perhaps there are new principles of prayer to be learned, perhaps patience and persistence are needed. We listen, we make the necessary adjustments, and try again. We can know that our prayers are being answered as surely as we can know that the television set is working. [1]

This is where I should add on a bunch of disclaimers about how we don’t always get the answer we want, we don’t always pray according to God’s unchanging will, etc.

But I’m not going to do it. If you are praying for something and God isn’t going to do it, then at some point, God may tell you this and release you from it. Or it won’t happen and then you will know, like when David prayed for the baby Bathsheba bore, he prayed until the child died, then he stopped. Jesus taught us to pray relentlessly, keep asking for what we and others need, like a child asking a loving parent for some food.

You see, those who say we can’t change God’s will with our prayers have it wrong. What God has willed is that we pray. It is God’s will that we bring our petitions before him and receive divine blessings to meet those needs.

I like Foster’s analogy – we should pray expecting an answer like we click the remote expecting the TV to light up. It would also be good if we prayed at least as often as we turned on the TV, but that’s another post…

[1] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, 20th Anniversary edition (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1998), p. 38.

9 thoughts on “Pray like you’re turning on the TV

  1. hello!

    great post

    and great theme too

    by the way, i found your blog from tweeter 🙂

    happy blogging!

  2. Hi, Mike–it’s been a while since I’ve visited you. I’ve been really busy at school. Over the years, I have honed in on one over-riding prayer–“Father, please give me Your knowledge, understanding, and wisdom about this matter…” I’ve realised that I am limited to what I can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste while God is high above everything and can see the whole picture. He sees our circumstances and the battle against us. He is able to help us in time of trouble if we understand that He knows much more than we do.

    1. Patricia,
      Thanks for the comments. You haven’t missed much by not visiting. The new baby has kept me busier than I expected. I like the prayer in your comment.

  3. Mike! I didn’t know you had a blog. good point made – another example that comes to mind is the parable of the widow who needed justice, and bothered the lazy judge until he finally gave it. yet we know God’s just and good, and we give up after one try. also reminded of the waylaid response to prayer – who was that? where the angel with the message was caught up for days, but was dispatched at the time of the original prayer? I should pray for memory. 😉

  4. Praying is as powerful as difficult. There are more “TV Failures ” to get into Praying than to get a response itself. Prayer is more than asking. Is a completely tunning between God and us. And that tunning will produce amazing changes in our lives. There is another resource to find that “blocking TV failure” Praying in Tongues.
    God bless you Michael.

    1. Mauricio,
      Thanks for the reply. I agree that praying in tongues is a great resource for “getting better reception” (to keep with the TV analogy). I also agree that praying is about much more than just asking for needs/wants/desires. If the only communicating I did with my wife was making requests, we would not have a very good relationship, would we? But while Foster’s analogy is limited (as all analogies are), I still like the idea that prayer ought to come with an expectant attitude, not where we’re surprised at being heard, but where we fully expect God to listen and respond, because that is what happens in prayer. We might not like the response we get (that’s a post for another day), but we can be sure that when we reach out and speak to God, God listens. We can also be sure that when we take the time to listen to God, to really quiet our souls and minds and wait, God will indeed speak to us. This is not a strange or unusual thing; it is in fact a well-documented part of God’s nature. The God who is the Father of Jesus Christ loves to communicate with the humans He has created.
      Thanks again for reading and responding, I really appreciate it. God bless. Mike.

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