Getting Real About Prayer


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Reposted from Parse

We spoke with Max Lucado about his most recent book, Before Amen: The Power of A Simple Prayer. We talked about how to teach on prayer and the reminder that God is always in control.

1. I think a lot of Christians going to churches instinctively know that we need to pray but always feel guilt like I don’t pray enough, I don’t pray right. How would you speak to that?

I encourage us to resist the urge to complicate prayer. I think those of us who have struggled with guilt about not praying enough or not praying right, it is because we are focusing on a form or formula. We love to create forms and formulas. Pray for a certain amount of minutes or use a certain type of prayer language or even prayer shawls or prayer beads. We create forms and formulas; well, sometimes these forms and formulas can be a guide, they can help us, yes, absolutely, but don’t beat yourself up. At its simplest core, prayer is simply a conversation with God. So, I’m wanting to remind people who struggle to pray, that God hears our prayers and the power of prayer doesn’t depend upon the one who prays, but upon the One who hears the prayer.

2. How would you counsel church leaders when they talk about prayer. There is always a tension when we get to the passages on prayer and think, I want to nail this. People don’t pray enough. How would you counsel church leaders, spiritual leaders to walk their people through their prayer life?

I think that is our job, right? We equip the saints, and one of the ways we equip them is with a proper understanding of prayer. Where we tend to struggle is our inability to answer the question of unanswered prayer. It gets back to form and formula. We tend to leave the impression that if you pray correctly or pray in the faith, then you can be sure that Jesus will do what you want. I don’t think that when Jesus talks about the prayer of faith or even the book of James talks about praying with faith, I don’t think it means faith in my prayer.

I think it means faith in the One who hears the prayer. If I leave the impression as a pastor that if you pray with more faith you can be sure the prayer will be answered in a way you want, I’ve not done that person a favor. I have imposed a burden on him. What I need to tell them is, your faith is not in your prayer, your faith is in the One who hears the prayer. The big message for the church is that God will do what is right. Pray to him, turn the concerns over to him, and the minute you feel that anger or that hurt surface, turn immediately in prayer and give it to him. He, in the right time, will do what is right. Pray always, but don’t lose hope because we are confident that God will do what is right.

3. It seems like we need a prayer theology that would work, for folks who are suffering, whether here or in a third-world context where Christians are being persecuted.

That’s really true. That’s true overseas, that’s true right here, you know. People in the church where I serve in San Antonio are battling cancer, they are battling marriage difficulties, and they are wondering, well, I prayed about this, why hasn’t God answered? The challenge is that people tend to interpret what they think is God’s silence as God’s absence or God’s lack of concern.

I think our job as leaders is to come in and assure them to remember that God is the king. We understand this as dads. When my children came to me as young girls asking for things that were not right, no matter how eloquent their request was, I didn’t always say yes and God does the same. He loves us too much to say yes. Now, it is easy to talk like that when we are talking about things that we are not sure if they are right for us or not, but when someone is wanting their child to be healed from cancer, how could that not be right? When the healing doesn’t come, how could that be right? I think we don’t simply need a theology of prayer, but also of suffering, that God uses this suffering to advance his cause and to strengthen his people. Here’s the promise God does give us: He will give us peace. Be anxious about nothing but pray about everything and the peace of God which passes understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. So we can be sure that peace will come.

4. You’ve been writing books for a long time, including many bestsellers. So do you ever get to a place where you’ve run out of ideas? What keeps that creative process going?

There will be days where I will think, Well, I guess I’ve done my share. I’ve written thirty-two or maybe thirty-four non-fiction inspirational books and sometimes I think I need to stop. But then I have another idea that I think would be fun. In fact, that just happened. I did a sermon series on Joshua in the Old Testament and I turned that into a future book and I have an idea for a Christmas book I’m working on. So, I guess I’ll just keep writing until I run out of ideas or they quit showing up.

5. Has being a pastor and having the kind of weekly commitment of having to preach, filled your creative well?

That’s been a huge part of this because I really am a preacher first and a writer second. At least I try to be. Now, writing ends up taking a lot of time but I try to stay focused on this question: what does the church need to hear, what would the church benefit from? The weekly discipline of preparing sermons forces me, just like any preacher, any pastor, to keep looking for fresh ideas. That outward discipline has been very good for me.

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