Herald Journal Columns
Nov. 21, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Unleashing the power of prayer

By Pastor Ingrid Bloom, Montrose United Methodist Church

I officiated at the funeral of a person very dear to me April 26. Her name is Ida Knudtson, and she is one of the kindest, sweetest people I have known.

I came to know her 24 years ago when my first-born child, Brandon, was 18 months old and I needed to go back to work. Being a new mother, I was very concerned that my son be cared for by someone I could trust, and all the grandparents were far away in Chicago and Arkansas.

I prayed that God would help me find the right person to watch my dear little Brendan. At this time, I was not a pastor. As so often happens when I have prayed for help, I felt an urge to do something I had not done before. The nudging I received from God this time was to attend my church’s women’s circle meeting.

All of the women in this circle group were much older than me, and as I sat with this group of strangers, I had a really good feeling about Ida. I talked with her, and I knew I really wanted her to watch my son. Ida really wasn’t sure she wanted to take on such a responsibility at age 69, but she liked to help and so she gave it a try.

I discovered Ida had a big heart. She was always filled with joy and a positive attitude. She had the most delightful giggle and calming personality. In 1982, my daughter Elizabeth was born, and Ida started watching both children while I worked. Even though she was paid, she actually became the children’s surrogate grandmother.

Until the age of 83, Ida took care of Brendan and Elizabeth.Her gentleness, thoughtfulness, humble sweetness, and great kindness touched everyone she knew. Not only did God answer my immediate prayer, but He gave me and my family so much more than we even could imagine at the time.

That is how the power of prayer works. We ask for something and God hears us and reveals his mercy and grace to us, not only with what we asked for, but beyond our imaginings.

But prayer is also an invitation to go beyond our requests. It is natural to turn to God for healing, for help in trouble, and when we are afraid. But if we limit our prayers to these times, we may be just trying to fit God into us and make God a part of our life.

Instead, prayer can evolve into how we take part in God’s life and vision for the universe.

I’d like to highlight some of the thoughts in two books I recommend on prayer: “The Ignatian Workout,” which describes daily spiritual exercises for a healthy faith, by Tim Muldoon; and Richard Foster’s book, “Prayer.”

The first of four principles on prayer is that we are created to praise, reverence, and serve God, and in this way, we grow into eternal well-being. God created us in order to love us. When we pray, the first thing is to allow ourselves to experience that love. Practice in your prayer time, to give thanks for things like being with people you love, having food to eat, and giving thanks for each person in your day.

The second principle of prayer is to let God shape our character to conform to Christ. This is a time to search our memory and our heart to what in our day helps us to conform to Christ, and what thoughts and experiences and attitudes hinder us.

You may want to read a hymn out loud. Or you may want to keep repeating a Scripture verse as your prayer. Or read a Psalm out loud. At the end of the day you may want to ask, “What has been the most important thing I have done today that has allowed me to receive God’s love, and that has brought me closer to experiencing God? How has God’s grace shown up?” And, “What have I thought and felt that distances me from God?”

The third principle of prayer is confession and forgiveness, and bringing before God how you may have hurt someone, disregarded someone, or harbored anger or resentment. This prayer is noticing what you regret. It is noticing a failure to act. It is noticing if you lacked trust in God in any of your actions or interactions during the day. And then you pray to ask forgiveness from God.

The fourth principle of prayer is purifying our desires. We bring to God all that we want and desire and notice how much we care about external things like health, sickness, wealth, poverty, obscurity, recognition, a long life or a short one.

Saint Augustine wrote, “You have created us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Many times we are restless, looking for the thing in our lives that will make us happier. But the real purifying of our desires is to be able to live without being attached to any particular result, and to be at peace with God if we don’t have what we desire, recognizing how that fits into God’s desire for all.

Remember, when you pray, you are asking to be conformed into God’s will and Christ’s desires. There are many saints who have passed on, praying with you, wanting to help you use your gifts for God’s glory.

God has promised to help you discern the way you should go. God’s counsel is there if you seek it in those who love God, and in the innermost part of your being. God has promised to comfort you with God’s own Spirit when you are suffering, sick, and overcome with grief.

Jesus Christ has sympathy for our weakness. We only need to reveal the real condition of our heart in our prayer.

Sometimes, the hiddenness of God helps us to find God beyond our own preconceptions. Sometimes, God will strip us of our dependence on exterior results or even interior results, and help us know more of our capacity for faith in God above and beyond our self deception, and bless us with humility, patience and perseverance.

Sometimes, we pray, listen, worship and ask, even if there is no answer, and love God more than the gifts He brings. That’s what Job did when he kept serving God. That is what Mary did when she said, “ Here I am. “

The power of prayer is how God forms us and draws us ever closer into God’s love. Prayer will change you, and through continued prayer, God will release you from worry, anxiety, anger, fear, impulsiveness, even grief, and bring you into a deep joy.

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