A J-BAR PRAYER
Father, we come before you now on bended knee, hoping to honor you with our integrity. Please make our judgement as sound as steel and be our hands upon the wheel. Give us strength and vigilance on our routes and help us to serve others, as You did, Lord, without any doubts. Remind us to be gentle, humble and kind, and help us when we stumble in body and mind. Please shelter our families whilst we are away and bring us safely back to them at the end of this day.
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Have you ever encountered a time when you are talking, but the person you are talking to is not listening? My wife Joy and I have been married for quite a while, and there are times when I’m in the kitchen and we’re talking, and I keep talking and I turn around … and she’s gone. Has anybody else experienced that?
There are times when I know we can all attest to, we are talking on the cell phone and you’re just talking along, giving the whole spiel, and nobody’s saying anything. You finally look and realize the call dropped ten minutes ago.
My favorite example: we took a trip over the Thanksgiving break; myself, Joy, and our youngest Hannah. We were driving long, long distances and Hannah was quiet in the backseat. I had my eyes on the road and I’m talking to Hannah… she doesn’t respond. Finally I glance back at her and she removes her earbud from her ear… “You talking to me?” Um, yeah.
We have all encountered that and it seems to be common, but I have found when we are experiencing something in our day-to-day world, a lot of times without realizing it, we’ll transfer that experience and that understanding to our concept of God.
Now there was a verse that I remember hearing as a wee lad – that was a long time ago – but the verse goes something like this: in good King James English it says “at evening and morning and noon will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice.” I remember hearing that as a child as instructions; you are supposed to pray in the evening, you are supposed to pray in the morning, and you are supposed to pray at noon. It was kind of that driven “you’re supposed to pray all day long” and we’re going to beat you about the head, neck and shoulders with the “should” stick.
But the part that I missed was that last little piece of the verse: “and he shall hear my voice.” Now, I don’t know what you think about when you hear we should pray. A lot of the time it is this written script. We have these words we have to recite in a particular order. A lot of times we pray because we’re supposed to. Lord bless the food. Lord, please give me wisdom. Lord, please let me pass this test. Lord, please don’t let me die while this 18-wheeler drives around me on an icy road. . . Oh wait, that was just me on Saturday.
But we think about prayer in terms of I am sending this message and not always thinking about who is on the other end of that conversation. I think a lot of the time we expect to turn around and look and realize God is not really there. He’s not paying attention. The words I’m using obviously are falling short because my life really isn’t all knit together so well.
But, scripture reminds us again and again and again that God is paying attention. And so I want to read that verse: “at evening and morning and noon will I pray, and cry aloud and he shall hear my voice” again, that’s the one I learned when I was a kid because that was the only version I knew. And as we’ve gotten further away from my childhood, and other translations have come out – not to say that any one version is wrong, but sometimes we just have a better grasp on the words that are being translated from Hebrew into English. And I want to read from the Holman Bible, which is the one I typically read out of. It says “I complain and groan, morning, noon and night, and he hears my voice.” I really like that one, because how many of y’all like to hear someone complain? Most of us, if someone really starts to complain and be negative we kind of want to separate ourselves from them. The Bible tells us that prayer isn’t always this nice, neat, tidy conversation one way. But prayer is a pouring out of the heart. And I love the way the Holman says “I groan and complain morning, noon and night.” All day long. And even at our worst, scripture reminds us and assures us really, that God is listening.
And so I wanted to encourage you as we start to step away from our Thanksgiving break where it’s all about giving thanks or just eating way too much pumpkin pie, and we rapidly rush towards Christmas, where we are thinking about “Who’s going to buy me what?” or “Who am I going to buy what for?” a lot of times we get lost in that shuffle and lose sight of the fact that God really is paying attention. God really is listening.
And in the good days and the bad days, when everything is great, and even when – especially when – all we want to do is complain morning, noon and night, let me reassure you and take not just my word for it but God’s word, that he is listening. That he hears us, and more than that, he wants to hear us.
So please don’t stop praying. And if you have stopped, please start again because I want to assure you that unlike my daughter, or my wife, or the cell phones that drop, no matter what, God is listening.