Praying – Longer & Shorter

praying-hands-PencilMy prayers are getting longer lately. As time goes by, and the Holy Spirit does his work in me, I just have a lot more to pray about. I am more aware of God’s blessings in my life and have more to thank him for. Simply expressing gratitude can take a while. My health, happiness, wife, kids, family, job, church, friends, home, yard, possessions, etc. – it seems to me that most everything is a blessing. My afflictions are minimal.

At the same time, I am also much more aware of my own shortcomings, or sinfulness. Pride or self-centeredness is probably the biggest one. Maybe throw in envy and a little greed too. Some, but not so much, of the other “deadly sins” as compared with those three. Less of all of them than I used to have of course, but still way more than I’d like to have. So “repenting time” is lengthening my prayers too.

Then there’s national and world events. Reading the newspaper or surfing the web brings a flood of disturbing news. Terrorism, crime, domestic violence, addiction, poverty, corruption, venality, self-serving political and business leaders – all seem on the rise. Also, I think the Holy Spirit is increasing my general sensitivity to sin and to outright evil. It’s pretty easy now for me to see how pervasive they are in society. Naturally, I’m moved to pray for the world and for relief of our human problems.

Of course, I pray for myself too. There are things that I’d like to accomplish and personal and familial situations I’d like to see change. Often, I pray about small matters because I know that God is in command of the details as well as the big picture. Like most of us, there are many “small matters” going on for me at any particular moment.

You can probably see how this would make for some long prayers, but it gets more complicated in action. As I pray, new issues of concern often occur to me and I add them in. Then I get thinking about what I might be leaving out. Don’t want to miss anything. And, while praying for my “wants,” I can get suspicious of my own motives and return to repenting – trying to sort “wants” from “needs” and submit to God’s will. Not always that easy to do, especially in real time.

Eventually I get to a point where I’m done with my long prayer. Sometimes I’ve had trouble finishing, perhaps frustrating myself with too much thinking, and found myself ending abruptly with the short prayer, God, you know. Amen. This has led to a whole new line of thinking about prayer, Hmm… God does know. He knows my problems, my wants, my motives, my needs, and the world’s problems – and he knows his will and his plans, which I know are good. Let’s just go with that. His will be done.

I now find myself praying just, God, you know. Amen. from time to time. I consider it a kind of shorthand between me and God. I still say long prayers, but it’s nice to know that I don’t have to, because God knows. Amen to that!

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
Romans 8:26-27 NIV