“A Skeptic’s Guide to Praying”

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The requests are endless. They show up on Facebook almost as often as the likes. Because of the number, many scroll right past them. On to the next latest thing, event, or envious picture from a friend. Sometimes, when I read those requests, I’ll hit the “comments” button and read what others have typed as part of their response.

And the skeptic in me tempts my face to form a smirky expression, especially when I read, “I will be praying for you.” Yes, it takes courage to put yourself out there and ask folks to pray for you. And actually, sometimes it’s not bravery, but desperation, a cry for help, that leads some people to request prayer. They’ve tried everything else. The problem is still there. Now what?

I have a good memory, which is a good thing and a bad thing. I remember what it felt like to put myself out there and request prayer regarding a situation, person, or family issue. Immediately, someone responded, I’ll pray for you. But the days turn into weeks and morph into months and that eager beaver who offered to pray can’t be found anywhere. Did he/she really pray for me? Isn’t the point of agreeing to pray for someone—to really do it?

That same person who agreed to pray never followed up about the need I voiced. Why is that? My skepticism meter rises some more. But the beauty of being skeptical, is, if you are open, you can move from the problem to a resolution instead of hammering the issue.

Here is a suggestion. When I read a prayer request on Facebook, for example, I’ll stop, in the middle of whatever I am doing, close my eyes, and lift that person or group up to the living God—who really listens. Then I’ll type just one word in the comment section: PRAYED. That’s a past tense word. The action has already occurred. Yes, I may pray some more, like the scriptures tell us to-“pray without ceasing”, but if I don’t initially pray when I first read the request, chances are I won’t pray at all, much less in the days ahead. We forget so much.

Better yet, if someone voices a request to me over the phone, I will tell them I’m writing it down and also say, “in case I forget the request.” Again, just a suggestion. But let’s be honest, every last one of us has failed in the prayer area, just like Dane Ortlund admits in Gentle and Lowly. “Our prayer life stinks most of the time. But what if you heard Jesus praying aloud for you in the next room? Few things would calm us most deeply.”

So is there any encouragement, any hope, or any faith left after admitting there is no human out there who has a “perfect” prayer life? Ortlund already hinted at the solution to my skeptical question—Jesus.

But that may lead to more questions like Ortlund asked, “But what is he doing now? We don’t have to speculate. The Bible tells us. He is interceding for us. Hebrews 7:25b reads, “He always lives to make intercession for them.” (KJV)

Did you know that Jesus prays to God for us—meaning you and me? You don’t have to ask Jesus to pray for you, he already is. Ortlund continues to clear it all up, “What is intercession? In general terms it means that a third party comes between two others and makes a case to one on behalf of the other. Think of a parent interceding to a teacher on behalf of a child or an agent interceding to a sports franchise on behalf of an athlete.”

Are you discouraged by the whole prayer thing? Are you disillusioned by your fellow brothers and sisters who claim to know Christ? No, you can’t keep your eyes on people, (i.e. Christians). Rest in the fact that Jesus pleads, mediates, and intervenes for you to the Father. If you are a child of God, you are always being prayed for.

He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25b, KJV)

One final takeaway from Ortlund: “The divine Son never ceases (note the word “always”) to bring his atoning life, death and resurrection before His father in a moment-by-moment way. Christ “turns the Father’s eyes to his own righteousness,” wrote Calvin, “to avert his gaze from our sins.”

AMEN! My skepticism meter is no longer in the red, how about yours?

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2 thoughts on ““A Skeptic’s Guide to Praying”

  1. Very good devotional.!!! And Thank you for all of your prayers throughout these years. Love you !

  2. Very good. It’s for sure if I don’t pray right then and there when I have a request you can bet I’m going to forget! I know I don’t comment often but that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to your devotionals. Thank you Nelson, your insight is always comforting. 🙂

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My name is William-Nelson-Haynes. I mentioned my full name because I want to share more than just two-thirds of me. Since life is a journey, it is my hope that this blog keeps you from feeling alone. Please check out my background, education and experience in "The Writer" part of the Menu on the top left-hand corner of the home page. Other Menu items you can scroll through are the Authors who influenced me, Magazine Articles I write for Good News Magazine, the Top 15 books that affected me spiritually, and the other hobbies that also make me come alive.