In my last Installment, I stated that my prayer life really changed just prior to the 2013 Passover season. It is this change that I want to talk about.
Prayer. It is a part of any Christian’s life. But the word prayer can mean different things to different Christians. However, the word prayer carries a common idea, it is the avenue of giving one’s concerns, thoughts, pleas, amongst other things to God, where prayer is interpreted as a one-way communication event, from the one saying their prayer to God – the person speaks, even if silently, God hears.
That was my prayerful practice until March 2013. I wrote prayers. I spoke prayers. I said prayers silently. Sometimes there was a human audience participating with me in prayers, but prayer life, if truly a prayer life, is far more personal – time between just the person and the Divine.
As I have expressed throughout “My Story” the last five years have been about learning to walk by faith, learning to let God lead. Those five years gave me personal experiences that I cannot deny. Moments that I thought never existed. 2013 and prayers would reveal similar.
I cannot tell my reader how many times I have attended worship services. The number is too great, and enumerating a count would seem somewhat self serving, but that is not my point. My point is that I have spent many years in worship services, participating in giving praise, in hearing lessons, giving lessons, and leading prayer services to offering my own personal prayers having no audience but God.
I don’t recall the prayers of my way younger years. But when I started praying, and I recall mostly public prayers whether with family or others, prayers were very simple, using common words that I had heard others speak. The words were genuine. But those prayers were far more formal, rehearsed and practiced than the prayer life that I have experienced in the last few years.
My prayer life, itself, has gone through numerous maturation points. I learned to move from using the words of others to using my own words to express my own thoughts. I mean that sounds simplistic, but when we are young in our prayer life, we do incorporate the words that others have prayed, moving into your own words is a maturation point.
Then the serious prayers arrive. Praying not just for physical health and the physical health of others, but the deliverance from oppressions like disease, looking for God to provide truly miraculously. We do pray for these things. We want the ill to gain back their health. We want death staved off.
As a minister and as a Christian, I have even had the distinct honor of praying with the dying, the recuperating, the emotionally distraught, the financially burdened, the spiritually lost, with fathers, mothers, and families. Prayer is powerful. Prayer is our medium between God and humanity.
We believe in it. We do. Otherwise we wouldn’t pray.
All that leads me to March 2013.
I had been attending worship services with a Messianic Synagogue since about August 2011, if memory serves. During that time, I had come to appreciate the perspective of the Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah. They manifest their faith differently, but their faith is very strong.
Personally, I truly feel that I stumbled upon that particular Messianic Synagogue, but I don’t think that being with them was an accident. Remember when I began attending there, it had not yet been one year since my family and I had returned to Texas.
Worship is slightly, some might say noticeably different than some Christian worship services. But I didn’t feel it. They have their liturgy. They have their music. They worship the same God.
While there, I continued my prayers. I continued praying. My reader may recall that some time prior to leaving the pulpit my prayers had changed, changed in intensity, direction, fervor.
When at worship, there was a very specific time, set side for prayer. It was total dedication to prayer, encouraging those who attended to put themselves into their own private prayers.
Week after week, I prayed.
Only God would know exactly what I was praying for. But I prayed. And prayed. And prayed. And prayed some more.
I prayed at worship. The weeks became months. The months began turning into years.
March of 2013. During the time set aside for prayer, I was wrapped in my tallit, something that I still do when I pray because it helps me. I began praying. Praying like I always had.
Then it happened.
I experienced the one-on-one communication with the One to whom my prayer had always been directed.
It startled me. It surprised me.
I had no paper, no pencil. I did not write down anything. I kept the moment in my memory until I could share the event with Mary.
She wrote down what I told her. She made the notes, but notes were all that I could give myself. Here is some of what I recorded:
I have to completely trust God.
I own you, you are mine, and nothing will take you from me. But you have to be in me, and one with me.
You have to learn how to listen to me…
Neither wife is better than the other, just different in their abilities.
I told him “Bring me my wife.” He said “Get your work done.”
I asked for a word of encouragement for Mary. He said, “My star shines brighter than full day.”
The prayer last a long time. I still have my notes. I prayed about my family, my friends, and general things about my life. But I was unprepared. Totally unprepared.
I had always experienced prayer as a one-way event – from me to God. To have a prayer event that became interactive was like a divine gift. Startling. But a gift.
As my reader can see, I prayed about my marital situation. Back then, I wasn’t too stable with the entire marriage idea. In fact, as I have admitted elsewhere I was never really convinced one way or the other.
In the face of derision and opposition, sometimes it can be very difficult to trust God. In fact, several times since that prayer event in March, I have thrown my trust away. It is my belief, conviction, feeling, whatever-you-want-to-call-it, that because I waffled on my conviction, I have yet to see things happen.
Now, this year, I am trusting God, trusting God in ways that I never have. I expect my life to change. God led Mary and me to understand about this new direction for our family. I feel confident that God is leading the woman who he wants to be with us. Where is she in her process? I have no clue. I just have to trust that when the time is right, we will meet, interact, or somehow otherwise dialogue.
But according to my notes, there was something else that happened that day and was included in my prayers.
Earlier in the day, I scoffed at the idea that in life -as in the game of chess- the queen protects the king.
At worship service that contemplation returned to me during my prayer time. What is interesting is the interaction from the divine:
It’s true [the queen protecting the king], that’s why you need two.
How am I to take that? In some ways that sounds dreadful. Do I make such a poor ‘king’ that it takes two ‘queens’ to protect the board and win the game?
But when I consider the game of chess, the king really is the weak component. Who designed this gaming system? It surely wasn’t someone who thought the king was all that. The king has to be protected at all cost or the game is over because the chessboard kingdom falls.
Who is the piece that has all the power? The queen.
The king? One. Space. At. A. Time.
But if the queen is captured? Take a pawn across the board, “promote” it and the queen is rescued, and back in play.
King. Powerful. Ha! Good luck if the king becomes the lone survivor. Stalemate, maybe. Otherwise, game over man. There is no rescue.
Queen. Powerful. Oh yeah! She moves forwards, backwards, horizontal, diagonal, any length of spaces she wants, from one end of the board to the other, being prevented in her advance only by another piece, whether friend or foe.
So when one looks at marriage like a chess match, hmm? Two queens?
As a ‘king’ I will stay on my side of the board, take care of things my side of the board, and let the queens do their work with the other friendlies.
One of the main reasons I write about this information is that after that prayer event, my prayer life changed, and changed in a major way. However, that was my first interactive prayer event. At the time, I don’t think I ever expected to have another prayer event like that happen again, because I certainly didn’t prepare for any more interactive prayer.
Later, at another worship service, I again did my habit at prayer time. I tucked myself under my tallit and went to praying. Again, I experienced an interactive prayer event. But, again I was unprepared. I had no pencil, no paper, just my memory. Later, I shared what I remembered with Mary and again she took notes.
Here is one of the things that Mary recorded:
God asked Ray what he wanted the most. After a few seconds of meditation, Ray told God that Ray wanted to be faithful and not to let doubt or fear take him.
I had to learn what was happening. I had to learn to focus. I had to learn to hear, hopefully that makes sense.
In those early days, I can’t say that I really had trust in those prayer events. I didn’t stop having them, didn’t want to. But they are so NOT what I was told can happen between a Christian and God that I had to really wrestle with what was effectively unbelief. But over time, those interactive prayer events really helped shape my understanding of God.
As I close, there is one thing I want to do, I want to address naysayers. The main criticism I hear, besides something like “God doesn’t work that way!” is something like this “The adversary appears as an Angel of light.”
So here’s the reality. My life is healthier. My marriage better. My spirituality more vibrant. My trust in God greater. My faith in Jesus greater.
The adversary does NOT make your life better. Have these naysayers ever read the Scripture: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour? It probably rings a bell, it’s 1 Peter 5.8 ESV. The adversary destroys. Destroys faith. Destroys marriages. Destroys lives.
Here’s the reality. God does not devour. God shapes and molds, making the believer a better vessel for the Kingdom.
I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed some more. Then God hit me, right in my prayer life.
I know that I am going to become a husband of two wives. I know that I will somehow continue sharing the Gospel and helping the church. I just don’t know how God is shaping the life of my wife who is not yet here. But God is doing it. Otherwise what is the point of believing?
Blessings and Shalom