Today at noon, I met with a curiosly intense group of friends to learn about prayer. I kept hearing over and over, "God answers prayer!" I hear so many stories of people discouraged about prayer. It often seems like this goofy exercise of speaking when no one is around. It feels so unproductive. (Not a good feeling for those of us addicted to "gaining the whole world" by the time we are 50.)
It was refreshing to hear these friends say, "Prayer is the one constant in my relationship with God. He answers. It is not always the answer I want, but He answers. He is not a genie in a bottle; however, He is alive. He is just as alive as the person next to me. When I pray I know that He is real. We pay high fees for solutions to all our problems while not taking advantage of our access to the great Counselor." I have to admit that one stung. You see I was feeling a little skeptical of the enthusiasm in the room even though last Sunday I preached on "Wonderful Counselor."
Even though I was a bit skeptical, I know these people. I know that they have been through the hardest of times. We talked about prayer during and after the death of child, 5 years of prayer requesting children, prayer during the cancer of a parent, prayer during a time of prolonged anxiety for no apparent reason, and prayer with children. And each of these people over time, some with struggle, and some with scars say, "God is real. I pray."
I realized that I need to be able to say for myself, "God is real." I need to be able to say that God is real today not just yesterday or fourteen years ago when such and such amazing answer to prayer came. I need to be able to say that God is real without making Him a genie in a bottle.
We closed our prayer session by praying for Sheree, my daughter the theater major at NYU. (Talk about someone curiously intense about praying.) About 3 weeks ago, she called and described one of those between a rock and hard place situations. Maybe in another blog she will give the whole story. Basically she made a decision not to go against her convictions during a group project. We talked on the phone, prayed for wisdom and decided she would present an alternative to the group. The outcome of this would have signifcant implications for the remainder of her time at NYU. Stephanie, her sister, and I called ten friends to start praying. Things weren't looking good this week. As soon as I left the prayer meeting, Sheree called. No kidding. She had just met with the group leader who had a complete change of heart, complimented Sheree for holding to her convictions (even though she didn't necessarily share them) and the group is going with the alternative plan saying, "we bet this has never been done at NYU."
God is real. I am convinced, not just because he answered my litte prayer, but because he answered the prayer of millions who have said we are longing, we are expecting, we are hoping for something more when Jesus came as baby--not a genie in a bottle!