By Allie Reefer
“I’ll be praying” is probably one of the most overused sayings in the church, and yet I fully believe it is also one of the most underrated. Prayer often seems like you’re marking time, like it’s something to do in the midst of trying to take action on your own. You pray because the Bible says to, because you know you should, but not because you really, truly believe in what it can do.
I know I had that mindset. For several years, everything in my life seemed to just fall into place. I prayed for things and God always came through. It wasn’t so much that I believed in prayer as that I didn’t have a reason not to. There weren’t any real bumps in the road, obstacles to overcome, or challenges to face. God didn’t say “no” or “wait.” His answer always seemed to be “yes.”
All of that changed a few years ago. My list of things that went “wrong” would be a mile long, but let me just sum it up with the major points. In the course of three years, I battled a lot of illnesses, struggled to find full-time work, and lost my dad to the cancer that he had been battling for six years. To say that my faith, especially my prayer life, was challenged would be an understatement.
Prayer felt like a cop-out in the middle of everything I was going through. Why waste time saying words when I could be doing something? Except what could I really do? That’s when God pretty much made it clear to me that I needed to revamp my prayer life.
Trying to reconnect with memories of my dad, I remembered that he bought me The Circle Maker when I was in Washington, DC attending the author’s (Mark Batterson) church. I started reading it and even convinced my discipler to go through it with me. The entire book is about how prayer is not only a way for us to connect with our Father but also an avenue for the Holy Spirit to intercede on behalf of our struggles, pain, chaos, and even joy.
My life had been so thrown off from where I thought it should have been that my prayers had become half-hearted and insincere. I was no longer praying over my passions, future, or fears. I was basically just shrugging my shoulders and saying, “Whatever you want, God.” But what God wants is for me to be specific and urgent with my prayers, to come to Him with my needs but also my desires. Does that mean that He will never have a different plan? No, and His plan will always far exceed mine. But part of growing in a relationship with Christ is communicating, sharing, and being vulnerable through our prayers. For me, that meant expressing to God my anger because I had a lot of it. I was angry about my dad; I was angry about my lack of a job; and I was angry because I felt like I had wasted my time and energy on degrees and internships that didn’t even matter. Telling God these things, and asking Him to change my attitude, helped me gain perspective and learn to trust that He is always working for my good.
Another important thing that I learned is that prayer is not just about praying “to” things, but it is about praying “through” them. I have been dealing with under-employment since I graduated in May. Two degrees, six years in school, thousands of dollars in debt and I’m working retail part-time. I’ve done all the right things, met all the right people, applied to all the right jobs, and yet, I’m still here with no definitive “end” to this time in my life. And yes, I’m praying every day that God brings along a fulfilling, full-time job, but I’m also praying that He continues to align my heart with His and that He keeps me faithful to where I’m at right now. (I’m also learning that your prayers like, “God, don’t give me options for jobs except where you want me to be,” are not taken lightly.)
In the midst of calm or chaos, prayer is so much more important than we give it credit for. Prayer is an essential part of our relationship with God. It allows the Holy Spirit to speak up when we don’t have the words. And when we pray through and not to, we gain a much better perspective on our trials and situations.
It’s funny because as I sat down to write this post, I had a little bit of trouble figuring out where to start. So, I decided to just type the title at the top to focus my mind and frame my words—and that’s exactly what prayer does in the midst of our crazy, busy, chaotic lives. It focuses our minds on Christ and frames our lives into the context of His will for our lives and for His kingdom. As some final thoughts, I’ll just share a few verses from my small group’s current study on Romans that I think really bring the purpose and power of prayer home: Romans 8:26-28 – “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
Allie Reefer is a full-on participant in the slash generation, filling the roles of writer/musician/social activist/traveler/still figuring out the rest. In addition to being active in her small group and the worship team at North Way Christian Community East End, she spends much of her time working with Living in Liberty, a Pittsburgh-based anti-human trafficking organization that is working to restore victims and raise awareness. She’ll talk your ear off about anything relating to human trafficking, immigration, sustainable development, and Eastern Europe. She loves deep conversations about policy and theology, mini-adventures and inside jokes with her sister, crime dramas and sitcoms, and coffee, of course.