Today I was leafing through a book of prayers and meditations by Wild Goose Publications called, Present here on earth. I was stopped by a meditative skit called, “Prayers that Jesus hears”. As I read through the skit it struck me that the prayers that Jesus hears and responds to are not the ones that we think. He does not necessarily respond to long flowery prayers full of scriptural references . ( A sad thing to note for we preacher types who write those long prayers that most folks nap through). As I read through this skit, it struck me that the prayers that Jesus listens to are the ones that come from the heart.
As the skit unfolded the first prayer that Jesus heard was:
Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.
This is the prayer of the sinner at the temple. It is honest, and heartfelt and it is an opening up, laying himself bare before God and an act of throwing himself at God’s mercy. How often do we feel so miserable about what we have done, that the only way we know relief is to come honestly and humbly before God? How good does it feel to admit to God our shortcomings and failures? And the best part of all, it frees us up to go out and to be better. Humbleness, honesty, and an open heart comes with the words of this prayer: Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.
The second prayer that Jesus heard was:
Lord if you had been here it wouldn’t have happened.
This was the prayer of Mary, the sister of Lazarus. When we recall the story we know that word had been sent to Jesus that Lazarus was ill unto death, and yet it was days before Jesus went to see him. In fact Lazarus had been dead four days at this point and Mary pours all her grief and frustration onto Jesus. This is the kind of prayer that we dare to pray only if we are deeply sure that Jesus loves us, and if we love him in return. The love and the trust are still there, but because we can’t see past our circumstances the hurt, anger and fear come through our words. Even so, these are still words of faith. We need to know that the place to take our anger is to God. God will listen. God will understand. God will hear our prayer and he will heal our heart. Lord if you had been here it wouldn’t have happened.
The third prayer that Jesus heard was:
Lord if you want to, you can make me better.
The leper desperate to be healed of his disease, sees Jesus on the road. He knows what Jesus can do, and what Jesus has done for others. He knows that Jesus can heal him. He has the faith to be healed. For that reason he risks it all and coming to Jesus declares that he knows Jesus can do what ever Jesus wills to do. How often do we timidly come before God and lay our prayers down with bated breath, and little hope? Prayer that flows out of knowing Jesus well, is confident. Prayer that understands God’s will, is bold. Prayer needs to be built on a deep faith, the kind of faith that is born from knowing Jesus and God well, so well that we know what they can and will do. Lord if you want to, you can make me better.
The fourth prayer that Jesus heard was:
Sir, if you took him away, tell me where you have put him.
This we recognize as the declaration of Mary Magdalene outside of the empty tomb. She does not realize that she is speaking to Jesus, she thinks he may be the groundskeeper. It is sometimes like that for us, that we are talking to another, pouring out our heart not even realizing that Jesus is present in that moment. It is a prayer that comes from deep within, a prayer that is prompted by a faith that is searching for answers and the revelation of God. God always hears our longing to see him and to know him. Those are the prayers that God longs to hear. He will hear when we ask him to reveal himself to us. He will hear when we ask to know him better. He will hear when we seek to know what he will have us do next. Oh yes this is a prayer that God will hear “God reveal yourself that I may know you.”. When we pray that kind of prayer we with Mary say, Sir,if you took him away tell me where you have put him.
There are many other of those heartfelt, deeply intense, bold, desperate, and even unknowing prayers that God will hear. The key is to make certain that we are constantly seeking God, and keeping our lives filled in prayer in all circumstances. Joy, sorrow, anger, pain, ill health, searching. Everything we go through will have a different kind of prayer, but when it is bold, confident, searching and comes from the heart, it is a prayer that God will hear.
The skit concludes with these words:
So if you want to make a prayer
or of frustration
or of searching faith
or on behalf of one other person
let us do that now….
Don’t wait for the right time to pray…. NOW is the right time to pray.