Prayer: The language of Faith
I remember singing this old hymn in the Baptist Church when I was growing up, before becoming Catholic :
"O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
all because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer."
As a kid, I didn’t think very much about the words. But now that I am older and have a lot more "life" under my belt Ithink a lot more about them. They make a huge claim. And if true, they make a huge claim on us.
Think about it? Do we forfeit peace we could have had by taking everything to God in prayer? Do we carry a lot more pain and burdens on our shoulder because we do not carry everything to God in Prayer?
Saturday after noon I found out that my oldest had gotten married. We have been estranged from each other for close to 20 years. I have done my best to keep up with her as she grew up. But I was not always successful. That night, (or morning, however you want to look at it), two things struck me around 1:30.
One, I did not have to bare this feelings of guilt and shame about the past I was having. I had done everything I could to make it right with her. I made everything right with God as well.
Two, I was only a few steps from the chapel in our community where I could go and leave it all before Christ in the Tabernacle! And thats what I did. That's when this old Hymn came to mind.
"All Because We Do Not...."
Be nothing solicitous (or anxious); but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7)
God’s promise to us through St. Paul is the power behind the hymn’s simple words.
God is promising us peace in everything and freedom from controlling anxiety (solicitousness)! Peace is ours for the taking.
So if we don’t have the peace of God guarding our hearts and minds, it’s all because we do not . . . do something God calls us to do.
"Carry Everything to God in Prayer"
The thing is that what God calls us to do is easy! His is a "sweet" yoke, a "light" burden
For my yoke is sweet and my burden light. (Matthew 11:30).
What God is calling us to do is pray.
And what is prayer?
It is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God to adore Him
To thank Him for His benefits
To ask forgiveness,
To beg of Him all the graces we need whether for soul or body
It is this last aspect of Prayer I want to hone in on. When we say that part of prayer is asking for the grace we need for body and soul, we are saying, prayer is asking our generous heavenly Father for whatever graces we wish for (Luke 11:13; John 15:7), trusting that he will answer with whatever graces we need (Luke 11:10; Philippians 4:19). Did you catch that? We bring our wishes to him and leave with what we need. Prayer is casting our anxieties on him, because he cares for us
Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you. (1 Peter 5:7).
But the only problem with bearing this easy yoke of asking God in faith for the grace we need is that we often find it hard. And what we find hard about praying is believing God — believing that it’s making any real difference.
Prayer is the native language of faith.
That’s why a soul full of trust in God finds prayer almost effortless. But a soul full of doubt finds prayer a heavy burden. "Prayerlessness is the muteness of unbelief."
An accurate gauge of our level of faith is how and how much we pray.
A growing prayerful dependence on God is evidence of our growing spiritual maturity. And the more we pray in faith in everything, the more we experience the peace of God.
The Secret to Prayerful Dependence: Resting on the Faithful One
Why do we find faith so frequently difficult and therefore prayer such a labor? And what is the secret to realizing the peace St. Paul wrote about and experiencing what it means to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)?
A famous missionary to China from the 19th century, struggled with this very issue. Here’s how he described his struggle:
"I strove for faith, but it would not come; I tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Saviour, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the world; yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do?"
Then he experienced a breakthrough that changed his life:
"When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. In the letter it said: 'But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.' As I read, I saw it all! 'If we believe not, he abideth faithful.' I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, 'I will never leave thee.' Ah, there is rest! I thought. I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more.”
The key for this missionary was that he stopped focusing on trying to exercise more faith and instead he looked to Jesus, "the Faithful One,” as revealed in the sacred scriptures.
While his focus had been on his lack of faith and trying to work it up, he was miserable. But when his focus turned to the fullness of Jesus, he discovered the peace surpassing understanding.
Faith is not a muscle that we need to pump up in order to be strong enough to trust Jesus.
Faith is our response to what we perceive as trustworthy. The more trustworthy, solid, stable, dependable, unfailing, and secure something appears to us, the greater our trust or faith in it will be. When our faith is weak, it’s an indicator that our focus is on the wrong thing.
The Missionary's refocusing transformed him. For the rest of his life he was marked by the peace of God and a remarkable freedom from anxiety. It bore up under the real world weight of his excessive labors, financial stress, frequent dangers, disease, the deaths of family and colleagues — the sort of difficulties that St. Paul knew.
They are the ministers of Christ (I speak as one less wise). I am more; in many more labours, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes, save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea.
In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren. In labour and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Besides those things which are without: my daily instance, the solicitude for all the churches. (2 Corinthians 11:23–28).
My Peace I Give to You
Jesus came to give us peace — but a a deep, heart and mind-guarding peace in the midst of tribulations
These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you shall have distress: but have confidence, I have overcome the world. (John 16:33).
He said, “my peace I give unto you” (John 14:27). It’s ours for the taking. All we need to do is ask in faith in everything. And the faith-key that unlocks the peace that surpasses understanding is seeing him as the Faithful One and resting in his ability to do what he has promised. It is an easy yoke.
Let us not forfeit this peace and bear needless pain. Let us carry everything to God in prayer and trust him fully to provide everything we need
"And may my God supply all your want, according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19).