Our questions of faith often remain unanswered or confusing. Like our questions about prayer.
We are fully aware of some bits about prayer that are crystal clear.
Will I get everything I ask for? No.
Will I get anything I ask for? Sometimes.
Why, then, should I bother?
This is where things fall apart, and we’re only on question three. Prayer is somewhat a mystery, but there are still plenty of things we can know for sure about prayer. I’m especially grateful for what the story of Gideon (found in Judges) is currently teaching me about prayer.
1. Prayer Engages Someone Who is Already with You.
We know what it feels like when someone is with us, and a lot of the time God’s involvement in our lives can feel… unpredictable. But prayer reminds us that God is already an always with us.
Gideon hit the Bible scene after the Israelites had been freed from Egypt (with the help of God), survived a stiff-necked wandering in the desert (with the help of God), dispossessed the bad guys and finally scored the Promised Land (with the help of God), and enjoyed years of peace, glorious peace (thanks to God)!
Then they blew off God.
Of course, their world came crashing in, and it was during that crushingly oppressive and lonely time that God visited Gideon. We read in Judges that an angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said to him, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior” (Judges 6).
And Gideon, in one of the most under-excited-to-see-God moments in Bible history, wondered aloud: God? Where have you been?
2. Prayer is All about Honesty – Not Just Saying What We Think God Wants to Hear
Gideon takes some hits in church circles for this seemingly whiny response. I mean, God’s here! Buck up and be glad! Who wouldn’t respond that way?
God did not treat Gideon that way at all. Here was a man who had heard stories about God’s benevolent leadership and love, but where had God been all this time when Gideon needed him?
Seemingly absent. Gideon was wrong, of course, but God didn’t hold that against him.
If you have read the backstory, you know it was not that God left the Israelites, but the Israelites who had left God. After all God had done to build a relationship with his children, they still had turned away from God. God said, “You have not listened to me” (Judges 6:10).
Leaders like it when you listen to them. And really, we should, if we want to win.
In Gideon’s case, he didn’t know how to win. He had heard about God; now he was seeing something he thought might be God. But life had been rough. He did not trust what was right in front of him.
God could have justifiably gotten smoking mad at Gideon with an accusing “You’re not listening to me!” However, it’s one thing to be obstinate, but another thing altogether to be unsure.
This is a God who cares about that difference.
Gideon was hearing God say great things, but Gideon did not know if God would actually do the greatest thing of all.
3. Prayer Teaches Us to Have Eyes that See God
God has a much greater mission than demonstrating his greatness. His mission is demonstrating his love. His greatest challenge was getting his people to receive that from him.
In Gideon’s case, that was about to change.
“Don’t go away…” Gideon said to God. “And the Lord said, ‘I will stay here until you return’” (Judges 6:18).
And then God did a lot more than that.
So commenced a bit of fire that lit up a little meat and unleavened bread. There was later a bit of fleece and then later a big barley loaf in the middle of someone else’s dream.
Over and over, God reinforced how much he loved and cared about Gideon and the Israelites.
If the Israelites hadn’t listened before, Gideon was listening now. Intently. What transpired was a monumentally triumphant turn of events for Gideon and his people. And Gideon came to believe that the hiding place of God’s word was a place he could trust.
God is Waiting to Spend Time with You.
Prayer is based on trust, which is a funny thing. It is a fleeting thing. It is fragile, unimaginably personal.
Expect that God is already waiting for you to spend time with Him. Be honest. Ask that your eyes be open to what God is trying to show you and remind your kiddo (are we really talking about the kids still?) that you are engaging a God who made you, longs for you, loves you and has told people from page one to page 700 plus in the Bible not to fear for one reason: I am with you.
Revisit the Gideon story and others like it. Your experiences may not be the same, your feelings may not be the same, but this God does not promise that sameness.
He promises: personal.
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