I CAN’T UNDERSTAND CAT BUT GOD UNDERSTANDS PRAYER
Findings from the 2014 Pew Research Centre Religious Landscape Survey showed that 54% mainline protestant Christian respondents indicated that they prayed daily and 15% seldom or rarely prayed1. It is interesting that our pet animals have no hesitation at communicating their needs to the people who love and provide care for them. They each have their own way of getting our attention, and seem to keep reminding us of their need even when we already aware of it. Just as our pets communicate with us, we should be communicating our need to our Creator, even though He already knows what our needs are. There is more to prayer than our immediate needs.
Like many people, I have pets. My pet collection includes two cats and numerous fish that occupy three aquariums. We have also been befriended by a dozen or so ducks who now expect a breakfast feeding every morning. My usual encounters with these animals consist of routine feeding and interactions such as ‘cat on lap’ or hand feeding my seahorses and lion fish.
Like most pet owners, I generally know what they need. This is usually food, and in the case of the cats, a warm lap to settle on.
Our morning ritual would indicate otherwise. Every morning we are awakened by ducks making cute quacking sounds under our window which translate to “get up and feed us”. Once up and about, we are reminded in no uncertain fashion by our cat Molly that she is so hungry that she is about to expire from hunger at any second. She does this as she sits by her food bowl and meows until it is full of food. As I walk past my aquariums, the fish race to the glass and gather at the water surface hopefully. No sounds are made, but these actions are easily interpreted as “I’m hungry, please provide for my needs”.
The relationship we are able to develop with animals is a gift from our Father God. However, this relationship is a faint shadow compared to the depth and love that our relationship with Him can bring. He created us to be in relationship with Him and has facilitated that through the atoning work of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Any relationship requires personal communication. Wayne Grudem, writing about prayer in his book, Systematic Theology defines this personal communication with God as prayer. He also argues that prayer is important in that it allows us to show our trust in God as we depend on Him to hear our heart and respond to our needs.
What is interesting is our needs never come as a surprise to God. They are already known.
And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
So there must be more to prayer. Personal communication with God can lead to increasing trust, deepening intimacy and growing faith. If you are uncertain about how you should pray, we have guidance. Jesus provides us with some advice on how we should pray.
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
We can communicate our praise and thanks to God through prayer (my cat does this through purring). We can petition God with our needs. We can pray for forgiveness and for the grace to forgive others. We can also pray for wisdom, protection and for God’s will for our life. This is a template for us that will build our trust and faith through prayer.
A question that some people ask relates to how often should we should pray. Scripture provides some advice on being persistent in prayer.
And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily.
Scripture also provides comfort for when we are in a situation where we are unsure of how to pray.
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.
When we accept that prayer is a personal form of intimate communication with our Creator, we can pray with confidence. We can trust that God knows what our needs are and that the Holy Spirit will guide us in our communication. We don’t have to be a public pray-er. The beauty of prayer is its portable and private nature. A common form of prayer is the ‘God please help’ prayer. One that I believe should also be common is ‘God, I surrender to you. Let your will be done in my life’.
So let’s have personal communication with God. Let’s pray.
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