Have you ever felt like you were caught in the rapids of a large river—you keep trying to grab onto something to give you stability, but everything slips out of your hands? You try to get your footing, but slip instead of stand—with no one around to help you? This is a dramatic way of describing emotional feelings, but some of us feel that way occasionally, at least in a more minor way, while experiencing the rapids of life. I wonder, Why do I feel like I’m floundering? What can I do about it?
The simplistic answer that pops into my head is: Pray.
But how? What to say? What does God want? My thoughts are in a jumble.
Primarily, God wants his children to talk to him. He already knows what we need. We all need a relationship with God first and foremost. Jesus, being the way to God, gave his life to resolve the sin problem, and then rose again. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus made it possible for us to become adopted children of God. All we need to do to enjoy that relationship is to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he paid for all our sins on the cross, then ask him to forgive our sins and invite him into our hearts as Savior.
We can talk to our heavenly Father in daily conversation. We can tell him our hopes and plans, worries and fears, and ask questions about how to do our work and live our lives. It’s good to pause occasionally, too, to listen to his Holy Spirit speak, and to be open both to answers in the scriptures and in the “coincidences” of life.
“Jesus, help!” is a good prayer for an emergency, like when I once went off the road in a snowstorm and asked Jesus to get me back on the road. He did, that’s why I’m still here.
You may have heard the quote, “Prayer Changes Things.” Does it change circumstances or people?
Sometimes we wonder why we don’t receive what we have requested of God…at least not yet or not in the way we intended. God is not a vending machine. We can’t just put in a prayer and receive what we ask. We need to remember that Father God knows what is best. What we request may not be what is best. Or it may be asking him to violate the freedom of choice he gives to all. But he wants us to continue talking to him and developing a loving and trusting relationship with him.
The Bible mentions many instances of Jesus praying. He taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer. He also taught through parables and other teachings and showed them by example how important prayer is.
God changes our hearts and attitudes when we pray, especially while we are humbly trying to relate to him. I remember a time in my life when I had a big resentment problem toward certain people. God led me to a certain scripture that convicted me not to speak words of resentment: “If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall be as my mouth, (Jer. 15:19b). I wanted to be used of God as a writer, so I determined not to react with words of resentment. To do that successfully, I had to pray for strength and guidance. Then I began praying for the people, too. As time went on, I quit even feeling resentful and had more of an attitude of love for them.
God might even change the attitude of someone filled with pride. Saul of Tarsus hated the followers of Jesus, (a sect called “The Way” before they were called Christians). Yet he was a strict Pharisee. He knew the two most important commandments were “Love God” and “Love your neighbor.” I wonder what Saul prayed for before his conversion. He probably prayed God’s will be done. Yet he thought God’s will was to stamp out this new sect. He thought he was obeying God by killing those believers.
God changed Paul’s attitude one day while he was on the road to Damascus intending to find and kill Christians. (Sounds like what the Hamas are doing today.) Jesus appeared to Saul in a bright light and knocked him off his horse. God blinded him for three days – then gave him back his sight so he could know the truth and be set free. God transformed Saul into the Apostle Paul and sent him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. He was no longer enslaved by hatred for Jesus’ followers, but filled with love. He later wrote the “Love Chapter” – I Corinthians 13. Later Paul wrote several other epistles to teach us God’s truths.
The Apostle Paul said the Spirit would help us pray.** I’m extremely grateful for that truth. If I am available to pray, the Holy Spirit will help me get the words out. He understands the longings of our hearts. He also knows the will of God for us. He can even use our babblings to communicate with our Father when our hearts are right with him.
God wants to change us to be more like Jesus. He wants us to love others, to trust that he is holy and righteous and will do what is best. The more we talk with the Holy Trinity, the more these changes will come about.
God is holy and righteous. He knows what he is doing. And we have the privilege of cooperating – and
fitting in with his plans! – They are God’s very best plans for us!