If he knows our needs before we ask, why then should we ask?
Last Sunday, while I was standing with the choir before church, the lady next to me whispered something quite shocking, given the circumstances. As we bowed our heads in prayer, she said “I think we pray entirely too much.” I was shocked since we were in church and that’s part and parcel of the experience. As the service drew to a close, my friend took the bulletin and counted how many times we had prayed during the service. Seven times.
While I am curious about her motives and beliefs concerning prayer, her comments set me to thinking about the concept of praying too much. How much is too much? Is there a set number of times to call up God and ask or tell Him something? I know that in the New Testament Jesus gives lessons on how to pray, (privately and in secret), and also gives a prescribed prayer for those of us who feel tongue tied. And if we pray too much to Him, how does He feel about it? Does He get annoyed that we are just not able to function? Does He feel constantly overwhelmed trying to tune in to all those millions of calls? Does he ever turn off the lines? How much is too much?
Further reflection brings me to lessons from Sunday school and countless sermons on the topic of prayer. I have heard that no request should be left unsaid, that no wish is too small to offer up in prayer. And don’t forget those gratitude and praise prayers! We are also reminded that He knows our needs before we ask. Why then, should we ask?
And while we’re questioning this whole prayer thing, is one person praying enough to get the job done? Or, is it more prudent to have large groups of people asking for the same thing? Does God count those prayers as important in terms of time allotted and more likely to be answered?
And one last question, Genesis tells us that God took six days to fashion the universe and that on the seventh, he rested. He asks, via the Ten Commandments, to keep the Sabbath (the seventh). Well, if He’s resting and we’re keeping it Holy, should we be talking to Him on that day when He’s resting? Was the first Sabbath the only one where He rests?
All these thoughts are not new ones to me. My friend’s comments just reinforced my usual doubts concerning my wish to stay in God’s Good Graces, fueled by my ongoing insecurity concerning my eternal future, i. e. heaven or hell. Is prayer, too much or too little in quantity or quality going to be a factor as to whether I spend infinity up or down? In other words, am I doing “IT” right?
I know that for me, prayer serves several purposes. Sometimes it reassures me that I am not wandering around life with no anchor. God, in that case, gives me a mooring when circumstances seem to be tossing me about: “Be here with me, please.” There are those moments when prayer gives me an option when a situation seems hopeless and/or intolerable: “Make it different, Lord.”
Prayer goes deeper for humans. Prayer helps us cope. The notion that a Higher Power, (by whatever name we choose), lets us sleep at night and walk fearlessly through the days. There are tomes written on the power of prayer and probably an equal amount written that prayer is just an exercise at all with no power except in the minds of the supplicant. As for me, I am a member of the former group. Prayer for me always pays off. The “I wish for” ones are answered, even if the results are not exactly what I thought I wanted. The “Thank You” ones need no answers, the wish was granted before I knew the need thereby offering me a security that makes my life doable.
However, the questions remain as to quality and quantity. I’m stubborn enough, like a spoiled child, to keep nagging until I get what ever my little whiney heart wants. I continue to be nervous as to how much is too much. Will He, like an overwhelmed parent at the end of the day, send me to my proverbial room, a.k.a. hell?
I still don’t really know. Maybe I’ll pray on it.