In the foreword to Jon Bloom’s book Things Not Seen, Ann Voskamp shares a story about a man who labors long and hard weaving baskets. It takes him years to cut trees, plane lumber, sand, refine the reeds, and weave a mountain of baskets. As he weaves each one, he prays. When he’s finished, he takes a match to them. They turn to ash. Years of work vanish in an instant leaving the weaver with nothing to show. Nothing in the seen world, that is. Because his real work wasn’t in the seen world of weaving but the in the unseen world of praying.
Never underestimate the ripple effects of the hidden work of prayer.
Oswald Chambers says “prayer does not equip us for greater works—prayer is the greater work.”
I will be blogging about “the greater work” of prayer for the next few weeks. It’s a practice near and dear to my heart and perhaps the most powerful method of throwing pebbles to impact change.
“I strongly suspect,” says Dr. Peter Kreeft,“that if we saw all the difference even the tiniest of our prayers to God make, and all the people those little prayers were destined to affect, and all the consequences of those effects down through the centuries, we would be so paralyzed with awe at the power of prayer that we would be unable to get up off our knees for the rest of our lives.”
You probably know that the ripple effects of our prayers have little to do with the eloquence of our words. Even though we know this, we… okay, I sometimes fall into this trap. Prayers peppered with holy words and phrases like “for your glory” and “empowering” and “sanctification” are no more powerful than simple, honest prayers.
And yet, many would rather go to the dentist than pray out loud. Excuses abound:
“I can’t pray. I’m not good at it.”
“Other people’s prayers just roll off their tongue. But not mine.”
“I can never think of the right words.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
I’ve prayed in groups, classes, on streets, at conferences, over meals, and in church services with the most seasoned of prayer warriors and some true giants in prayer. Through these experiences, I’ve come to believe that God’s heart sings when He hears a fumbling prayer. That prayer is a sacrifice. It’s an “I-can’t-lead-your-people because-I-have-sp-sp-sp-speech-impediment” kind of prayer.
If you can’t stand to pray out loud for fear of:
screwing it up,
or pausing too long,
or forgetting what you wanted to say,
this post is for you. Moses gets you. And so does God.
God loves your prayers because those who offer reluctant prayers with knees knocking need Him. They aren’t self sufficient. They are God sufficient.
But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what Jesus said about a self-righteous man who prayed fancy-pants prayers. The Pharisee’s prayer exalted his own “righteous” acts—what he was doing for God. But Jesus praised another man for his prayers, a tax collector, who begged to God out of his desperation. The tax collector needed God. The Pharisee, not so much. Jesus also warned his disciples not to pray for the sake of being heard or seen by others.
People like Janine remind me of how Jesus wants us to pray. She is not an eloquent, “I’ve-got-this” kind of prayer warrior. But Janine’s prayers touch my heart more than most seasoned pray–ers. When she prays, she simply talks to God about her needs and concerns, for herself and for others. Janine’s raw, honest prayers move my heart because I believe they deeply touch God’s heart.
It’s sweet music to God’s ears when we allow our desperation for God’s intervention to win out over our need to be certain or comfortable. It’s not about the prayer. It’s about the coming. And being with Him. He already knows what we’re going to say. He doesn’t need our prayers. God doesn’t need anything. But He desires for us to come. He chooses to weave our prayers into His divine and perfect plan so we recognize that our prayers have purpose. And so we will keep coming back and persevering in prayer. John Piper even says God wants us to “badger Him in prayer.”
So come. Throw a pebble. Say an awkward prayer. Badger God. And take courage in knowing that He delights in choosing to involve you and every fumbling, bumbling word in His powerful Kingdom work.