How prayer changes you
Maybe your prayer wasn’t supposed to change something or someone in this world as you intended. Instead, maybe you’re the one who needed the change, the awareness, or the new perspective.
As promised, this week we look at how prayer changes the one who is praying. To begin, consider what may have been God’s goal from the start of your prayer: to change you (not the situation).
To speak to this, I’m going in-house. When Bonnie Love-Colwell, our church’s Christian Education director, learned the subject of this column, I knew what she shared needed to be in print. Bonnie, a professional educator, wife, Super Mom, lauded actress, friend, and, most importantly to her, a devout Christian, opened up her real deal honesty. She experiences anxiety.
“I have a bad habit,” Bonnie says. “I worry about EVERYTHING, yet the following verse has changed my life in many ways. Philippians 4:6 says, ‘Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.’
“I started praying about EVERYTHING. All day. All the time. As often as I would worry, I began to pray. I use prayer thoughts to replace my many worry thoughts. And then I noticed something.
My prayers were being answered, all around me. So, I began to record both my prayers, and my answered prayers.”
In creating word documents on her computer called ‘prayers’ and ‘prayers answered’, Bonnie proves prayers may not change the world but do change us.
A look at both documents reveal some of Bonnie’s prayers are not answered, at least in the way they were prayed.
For example, Bonnie lifted a prayer for a family member during a particularly rough patch. What she prayed for did not happen, but you wouldn’t know it from Bonnie’s demeanor over the following weeks. Where stress or strain could have weighed on her soul, she smiled the sincere smile, the “something is going right” smile.
Noticing this, a colleague on our team who knew of Bonnie’s prayer asked if her prayer had been answered. Bonnie said, “Oh no.” But Bonnie was quick to say she had changed.
We can change, too.
It’s not an overnighter, but sustained prayer does change us. Repetitious prayer becomes evolving prayer and helps us see who we are and who God is. Through experience, acceptance, and the relinquishment of our want/need for control, we learn this: the way we approach (or see) a situation is not through our eyes, but through God’s.
In our lectionary lesson this past Sunday, we heard Jesus rebuking one of his disciples. Jesus said to Peter, “You are seeing thing merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
Jesus was right. Peter was only looking one way, his way.
But THAT changed!
Change too. A start is to recognize three patterns Bonnie observes: one, vague people don’t pray for specific enough things to occur; two, nonobservant people pray and pray and don’t look around for the answers to be revealed; and three, discontented people don’t like the answers that are revealed to them.
Given any single day (or moment), I think we embody these three. If, however, we begin to track our prayers like Bonnie does, we no longer see through a human point of view. Like Bonnie, we see
God at work.
I usually pray with my eyes closed, but invite you to keep your eyes open during and especially after prayer so you can see in time not your point of view but God’s.
Prayers answered—and even unanswered—may or may not change the world, but in time they will change you.
This blog first appeared in The Susquehanna Independent on February 28, 2018.