Why I don’t believe in prayer

by Jeff on July 5, 2009

Before you read the title and think that I’ve backslidden into oblivion, hear me out.  I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately, partly thinking I really need to “get serious” (whatever that means) about praying for our house to sell, because I really sense God’s up to something cool (when is He not?), but somehow I’m to be partnering with Him in this.

I’ve also been motivated to pray because I really sense that we (Jeff & I) and perhaps our church too, is really under attack.  I’m possibly getting more involved in serving at our church (besides the informal stuff I do), and Jeff is up to his eyeballs in ministry work, and as we’ve headed into our 7th year of marriage, we both sense that if we’re not careful we can get engulfed in the stuff of life and lose each other in the process. No good.  I’m not saying we’re falling apart, I’m just saying that as we’re juggling life and ministry, and two kids and the house stuff we’re trying to learn how to stay in stride with each other. Fair enough.  That said, I need to pray like never before for God’s grace and power in our lives!

So yesterday we spent a glorious 4th of July holiday out at my parents’ house at RiverSong.  A few friends from church joined us and we had a fabulous time truly resting, soaking up the sun, playing badminton, eating s’mores and homemade ice cream, and watching Dutch be his ridiculous hilarious self.  Since it’s always so fun to show new people the beauty of RiverSong, we took our friends down to the river, to our neighbor’s swimming hole, and swam around in the cold river water.  Jeff swam all over, then as he and his friend Matt got out of the water, all of a sudden he stops: “Oh no.  My wedding ring.”  I look down at his left hand. Gone. I close my eyes.  He lost his ring in the river.

He lost our first wedding ring in Half Moon Bay when we lived in California, but this current one was way more significant.  I’d saved and saved and secretly gone and taken my purity ring, the one my parents gave me when I was 13 and that I’d worn every day for ten years until Jeff and I had gotten married, and I had the jeweler actually stretch that yellow gold band and inset it into a white gold band, so that Jeff’s wedding ring was actually melded into my yellow gold purity ring. Needless to say, it was pretty cool, and very significant, even to me, Mrs. Non-sentimental.  And it was gone.  They looked and looked, but the river was murky and super deep.  Eventually we gave up and went back to the house.

Later on that afternoon, Jeff found some scuba gear and took his friend Jerrod back down to the river to look some more. I knew there was no way they’d find it.  When we got back down to the water, Jeff and Jerrod stood on the shore, holding their scuba masks, and prayed together. Jerrod cried out to God that He’d just be gracious and lead them to the ring. Then they searched. And searched and searched, while a friend and I sat on the shore and watched. Finally Jeff gave up and came ashore, it was shady now and the water was dark and it was hard to see anything. Just then he called out, “Let’s give up–” and as Jerrod took a step toward the shore, he reached down, “Here it is!”  And to our absolute astonishment, there it was, at the bottom of the river, in an area shallow enough Jerrod reached right down and picked it up. Needless to say we were amazed.

Wow, the power of prayer, right?  Well, not quite.

You see, today Joel pointed out a key aspect of prayer that I’d always kind of vaguely thought about but never was able to pinpoint it exactly.  So many people talk about the power of prayer.  Prayer is amazing!  We talk about different kinds of prayers to pray–prayers that avail much perhaps.  We pray Jabez’s prayer or so-and-so’s prayer, and I’m not saying that written prayers are bad, not at all.  But I would insist that I don’t believe in prayer.  I believe in God.  I don’t believe in the power of prayer, I believe in the power of God.  Anyone can “pray”–muslims pray, Catholics pray to patron saints.  There is no power in prayer. There is power in God, and the point of prayer is to connect with God and partner with Him as He works His will on earth as it is in heaven, aligning our hearts with His.  Prayer isn’t magic. It’s supernatural to be sure, but not magic.

I’m saddened by how often I’ve prayed just to pray, and missed the point entirely–fellowship with God.  I’m saddened by how often I’ve really just been praying because I want to see my will be done, instead of laying down my will so His can be done.  I’m wondering how often our belief in the “power of prayer” isn’t really belief in the One True God who can do whatever He pleases.

Perhaps it seems a small thing, but to me it changes my perspective entirely.  Do I believe that prayer works?  No. But God does, and that I know for sure.  Do I believe that God can do everything and that He has graciously chosen to allow us to partner with Him through prayer? Yes!  Do I believe God enabled Jerrod and Jeff to find his wedding ring, despite the fact that it seemed an absolute impossibility? Yes! Do I believe God can sell our house? Of course! Do I believe that He’s writing a cool story with our lives that will bring glory to HIS name and draw people to Himself? Yes!  In fact, what’s so cool about the ring story is that Jerrod (who found it) is one of Jeff’s Jr. High leaders, and today’s lesson for the Jr. High kids was on prayer and Jerrod was in charge of sharing a little lesson from his own life on prayer.  Um… how amazing is that?  Just the day before Jerrod happens to come out to our place, Jeff loses his ring, and after praying, God miraculously enables them to find it in the murky dark river waters.  And today they were able to share that story with the Jr. High kids.  It’s about so much more than a wedding ring…God’s name was glorified.  And God’s glory is what it’s all about.

Prayer is not the end. It isn’t the goal.  God, and His beauty, His glory, His fame, His worth lifted up and praised by every tongue, tribe, and nation. That is the end, the goal.  God is the goal. God is the gospel. God is what we get.  I believe in God.