Thanksgiving is this week, and it is one of the few days out of the year when people stop to give thanks and to look upward at their creator. The idea of giving thanks to an unseen God or of even talking to a being we can’t see can be awkward and hard for most people to understand. Even for people who are religious, prayer can be difficult.
Whether you’re religious or not, pray regularly or only think about it once a year at a big family meal, there are a lot of misconceptions floating around about prayer, and Thanksgiving is as good a time as any to try to clear some of those up.
Myth 1: Prayers have to be “big” to be heard.
Somehow we get the idea that we have to start prayers with long praises and a loud tone of voice for God to hear us… God knows the honesty of a person’s heart. There is no use in trying to impress the Creator of the Universe who knows you inside and out.
God doesn’t love any one person more than the other. His love is unconditional and only measured by the cross, which was taken for all. He loves you for who you are, which includes your real emotions and questions. You don’t have to worry about Him not understanding any of your questions or doubts. In the same way, you shouldn’t try to pray magnificent prayers to impress people and make them see how godly you are.
People with true character admit when they make mistakes, and also when they just need to feel the presence of God in their lives. People who are real aren’t concerned about being the center of the Christian spotlight, but with making sure Jesus is the only center of the scene.
Myth 2: God doesn’t answer prayer.
It’s hard for us to see the answer to our prayers sometimes because we’re human and think on a different level than God. We understand things differently and will never be able to understand some things. It’s a very literal part of how God is powerful and able to answer us better than we realize. God answers prayer in three ways…Yes, No, and Wait.
The waiting is always the hardest part. When we don’t get an immediate answer from our prayers, we have a tendency to get mad and say that God didn’t hear us or doesn’t care…in reality, He cares enough to tell us to wait…to not accept or settle for less than the best. That’s the kind of a loving God we serve….who wants only the best for his kids. Most of the time when we start to doubt this, we didn’t wait to see how God would have worked had we tried to see it His way.
It’s easier to blame God when He says “No” or “Wait”, but seeing God work in your life through ways you never thought possible is priceless.
Myth 3: Prayer has to be done a certain way
Ever been in your bed and feel like you’re just talking to the ceiling? Fallen asleep in the middle of a prayer? Got distracted? People in Biblical times approached God bowed and with closed eyes out of their respect and humility to a powerful God. It served as a physical reminder of God’s ability to answer them from their humble position, but also kept them with the mentality that all things were possible with such a mighty God.
If we pray traditionally with our eyes closed and on our knees…because that’s how we’ve been taught…and lose the concept of God’s power compared to ours, it won’t matter what position we’re in, we’ve lost the point. If you’re comfortable sitting outside and looking up at the endless sky and praying, He will hear you.
If you’re driving down the road you can pray your thoughts out loud. Ask God to keep all the people who are on the road safe and blessed. The book of Hebrews says that we should approach the throne of grace with confidence…if we say “Hey God” He knows…whether it be through singing to Him, thinking prayers, or praying for the people you see as you look around a room. Jesus promised, “Ask, and it will be given to you.” There’s nothing that God can’t do.
Myth 4: God doesn’t want to hear what I have to say…why should I bother God with my little problems?
God formed you when you were in your mother’s womb. He knows when you were born, what you will do with your life, what will happen to you, and the number of hairs on your head. He knows what you will go through, how you will react, and who you will impact. He isn’t a hopeful psychiatrist…he doesn’t give advice and say “Hope it works out!”
God loves you and wants to hear from you. If He didn’t, He never would have sent Jesus to look through time, see your face, and take the cross for you…but He did. You can go to God with anything about your life because the extent of God’s love speaks for itself through the cross. God knows the answers to your problems, and He knows how they will fade away when you focus on other things. God has awesome purposes that will come out of your life if you talk to Him honestly. He will show you things about what you can do and how that will change your life. That doesn’t mean your problems will go away…if you respond to God’s help honestly, they have a way of fading away. He has all the answers…why not talk to Him?
Take a step outside and see all the beautiful things that were created for humanity and feel God’s invisible qualities of love. Romans 1 tells us that God expresses himself in nature so we would catch a glimpse and respond with our thoughts and emotions. God is big enough to hear our cries and wants to give us great things, but we have to know that we can go to Him at any time with anything.