Ok. I did not set out to write tonight. Nope. My allergies are out of control, and it appears that Allegra is not 24-hour medicine as the package indicates. Well, at least not the second dose. I finally caved and took dose one yesterday evening, and I think I sneezed less than 50 times today. I thought I had found the magic cure. But after rolling down the car window to order and get my Sonic dinner, the itchy, sneezy, runny began again, and it’s now in full swing. If I bragged to you tonight at church about Allegra working, scratch that and don’t waste your $12.
However, with a large Sonic Coke Zero close by, I have a story to tell. And it’s one worth telling.
So some time back, I set alarms on my phone to go off every so often to remind me to pray. Well, not just to pray, but to pray very specifically about things. It looks something like this.
And although I have not followed through with prayer at every one of these times, the alarms have definitely helped me to pray more frequently and more specifically. I’ve challenged myself NOT to give God a “to do” list in each one of these areas, but rather to seek God’s direction and will for me instead. In short, I’ve prayed asking God to give me a “to do” list. And the good thing about God, if you ask Him to do that, He will. Guaranteed. He’ll just get all in your business and get you all busy-ness for Him.
Anyway, on with the story.
So Wildly Blessed Women… that’s what we call our Wednesday night women’s Bible study group… has been studying Fresh Encounter.
And let me just say this. This. Study. Is. Not. For. Wimps. Seriously. It’s been tough in all the right ways, but sometimes tough is painful and we don’t necessarily like being shoved right out of our comfort zone. Well, the last three weeks, we’ve talked about prayer. Yes, it has taken us three weeks to discuss one week of homework, and I’m not sure if we’re done with it or not. I’m also not sure what this says about my ability to lead this group, but I’m choosing to believe it’s all God’s timing. Ever the Pollyanna.
Well, after a hard discussion about corporate prayer tonight, I headed to Sonic for dinner. Brad is in Connecticut, so I wasn’t cooking. Oh, wait. That excuse won’t work. I don’t cook even when he is home. Ok. So I was just hungry and lazy, so Sonic was the logical choice.
Corporate prayer. It would take me far too long to sum up our discussion tonight, but let me give you a couple of quick quotes from the book so you’ll know why we’re wrestling with this issue:
“Today’s church sorely neglects praying together. Jesus boldly taught that His Father’s house was to be a house of prayer. Yet… are our prayers characterized by impassioned cries to God for mercy and forgiveness? Too often it seems that our public praying consists of a string of worn-out clichés that say little and merely ask God to bless someone and be with us.”
“Even the praying that takes place in worship services is often merely a brief string of clichés through together with little thought or preparation. Today’s church gives lip service to prayer but acts as if it can accomplish God’s work without praying to Him about it.”
Wrestling is the right word. And as I listened to our small group discussions tonight, I heard one thing over and over and over again. It wasn’t said exactly the same way each time, but the gist of the comments was this. We hold back from praying like we should or like we might want to because we’re worried about what other people might think. I know this to be true. I’ve lived it. The comment resonated with me. And the one thing I immediately thought of was… Who is our audience when we’re praying? Whether it be aloud or silently? Aren’t we praying to an audience of One? the One?
As I drove towards Sonic, thoughts just raced through my mind. Over and over again I replayed the comments I’d heard. And then as I sat waiting for my grilled cheese, my alarm went off. The 8:30 pm alarm. Yep. Look back at the picture above. See what I should be praying for at 8:30 pm.
For the captive.
As the chime rang, and I read the words on the home screen of my iPhone, the tears poured down my face. You see, when I set that alarm some weeks ago, in my mind the captive were those who don’t know Christ; those who are held in captivity to addiction or their past. But you know what I realized at that very moment.
We are the captive. Because we are held captive by comparison. Because we are imprisoned by fear.
We’re willing to forfeit an opportunity for conversation with our mighty God because we’re worried what someone else might think about how we pray or what we pray for. We’re willing to miss out on hearing from God because the voices of others are in our ear. We willing to shortchange our joy in Him for perceived happiness in this world.
The prayer began to spill out of my mouth, a tumble of words that were barely comprehensible with the sobs, but I know God heard my plea. My passionate cry for freedom for the captive. The captive by comparison.
And we all know this is truth. Comparison never leaves us feeling better or satisfied. No, it just leaves us empty. Wanting more.
It is ONLY with prayer that we will break the chains of comparison and be set free to enjoy an intimate relationship with our mighty God. Jesus Christ is our only standard of comparison. No one else.
No. One. Else.
“Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.” Galatians 5:1 MSG