The other night I went to my old high school’s Cross Country Banquet. I was moved all over again by the dedication, the sweat, the tears, and the burning muscle so deceptively hiding beneath dresses and dress shirts and glowing faces. This much can be held true: those kids don’t run so that they can earn a few awards and get clapped for – that would not be enough to cover the pain, or sufficiently describe the victories made.
The common factor that united all those high school runners was their habit of faithfulness to their running. No matter what time of day, no matter how many times a day, no matter how long or how high that mountain trail drove them, they would take it on with dedication and resolve, and oftentimes joy even in the utmost suffering.
Looking at the Gospels, we see that Jesus dedicated himself to the fullest to his task as a humble servant on earth, redeemer and savior. He too lent himself to a habit of faithfulness – prayer.
In Mark 1:35, we see that,
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
It is only after this discipline that Jesus goes on to do his task of preaching and casting out demons.
At Urbana ’09 in St. Louis, I was inspired and driven by an Indian pastor, his hair silvery white, his tongue not yet rejecting his native accent, and most importantly, his mind and heart devoted to constant prayer and devotion. His staff testify to hearing him pray in his office for hours, and he often takes walks for the sole purpose of prayer and fellowship with God.
This pastor, Pastor Krishna, taught me the Prayer of ACTS, that Jesus instructed his disciples to pray.
I. Adoration: This is not thanking God for what He has given you – this is praising God for who He is. In this world, we enjoy and yet have difficulty grasping the essence of friendship – how I can possibly be loved for who I am, when oftentimes I am the person I wish to be most distant from. And yet, we feel that pleasant jolt of uneasiness and surprise when we find a love that focuses on our heart, and not on our work, or wallet, or study notes. If we find pleasure in affirmation of who we are, how much may we bring joy to God’s heart in rejoicing in His nature?
II. Confession-this is a tough one for some people to grasp, since a common mindset is, “God already knows I did it, and He knows I’m sorry.” If people exercised this mindset with their earthly friends, I would be very surprised to see any friends left. Take a husband and wife for example – Say the husband woke up on the wrong side of the bed (literally) and gets angry at his wife for some petty reason (clothes on the floor), and then stomps out of the bedroom to make coffee. After a few sips of caffeine, he softens up to the sound of his wife coming into the kitchen and silently going to work. Though it is obvious to both of them that he overreacted, their connection will suffer until he comes before her in humility and apology. That story will most likely have a happy ending.
Don’t let your unspoken sins come between you and God. And if I’ve learned anything from crossing (and tripping) between cultures, don’t let mistakes that you don’t realize you’ve committed come between you and God either. If you have nothing to confess (oh for that to be possible with me), then pray for God to show you the ways you might have disappointed Him…just to be safe.
III. Thanksgiving: thanking God for what He has done, is doing, and will continue to do until your dying day and well beyond. This is a spectrum as great as giving thanks for God’s sacrifice on the cross to the run-in with an old friend you had yesterday.
Warning: Many times, our hasty prayers begin with, “Dear God, thank you for “……” and “….” and “………..” and God I pray that you’ll give me/us “…..” and “……” in Jesus’ name, Amen. If you’ve tried, that can often get a bit tedious and repetive both to you and maybe even to God (even with his everabounding patience). Just switching it up with adoration and confession adds a whole new dimension to your prayer life.
IV. Supplication – Needless to say, this is the part of the prayer no one has too much trouble getting to. I don’t attribute that to selfishness, but because there are indeed multitudes of things to yet to be done in our lives and in this world.
Don’t be afraid to “Pray Big” as Pastor Krishna said. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus instructs his disciples to pray for “God’s Kindom Come” and “our daily bread.”
In closing, I want to address the all-pressing question already brought up previously, “Why bother praying?” Doesn’t God already have his predetermined, predestined agenda regardless of what I say?
Firstly I encourage all seekers to look to the Bible on how God answers and listens to prayer beginning from the Old Testament to Paul’s ministry. Secondly, I want to tell a story I heard of a Kenyan boy (now student) who spoke about his father back in Kenya.
When this boy was a child, his father would go out and mow the lawn every Saturday morning. Each time, however, he would ask his son to go out there with him. So this child, tooting his plastic toy lawnmower, would go out every Saturday morning with his father and truck his plastic toy lawnmower across the lawn. Looking back, he probably didn’t do very much, and maybe even got in the way. But what he learned was that his father desired not necessarily his results, but his fellowship. Mowing the lawn with his father was one of this man’s most consistent and joyful memories of growing up.
God wants us in fellowship with Him, actively participating in His work.
I want to close on my old Cross Country team. As I look at their joy, their dedication, their disappointments, injuries, and also their triumphs on and off the field of glory, I see that whatever effort they put in, they put in obedience. Whether they got to CIF or State or that spot on JV or Frosh Soph or Varsity was often a situation out of their control due to injury or mishap. But they did not place the value of their season on having completed those objectives, but rather in staying obedient to those objectives.
Inconvenient Truth: Prayer is not about getting answers, but about being obedient. For those who have an issue with this, reflect on the fact that when all is said and done, God does not say to us, “well done, my successful servant (implying that those who were not successful…well..),” but rather,” well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Let us pray from now on with renewed diligence and obedience to our Creator, Redeemer, Worker, and Sovereign God (just to give you some tips on the “adoration” part).