Sunday, March 4, 2012

Faith and Prayer

What is this blog? Well I'm not really sure. A prayer. A confession. A statement. A mixture of all of them? Most of all it's just something on my mind.

Traveling the world is an adventure but living life is the greatest adventure of all. Each and every day is something new. Every day is different, even if only in the smallest details. It is a gift from God. In that daily adventure, for me, faith  seems to be like the highest, fastest, loopiest, twistiest roller coaster, without anything but gravity holding me in. (OK, maybe I just made some words and a hyperbole but trying to live life by faith is a huge adventure.)

That being said, I was browsing through some quotes by one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, and found several thought-provoking statements that he made which eventually led me to other quotes by other famous authors and leaders.
The safest road to hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. - C.S. Lewis
I almost missed this quote. I read it quickly and was on to the next quote before I stopped myself, went back and reread it slowly and gave it a little more thought.  After a little thought it brought me to the journey and adventure of faith. I began thinking about how often we want life to be easy. When things get hard, it is easier to desire they get easy again rather than using God's greater strength to get through whatever situation.

When I first came to Spain, I almost left four days in to my stay. Things were hard. I could barely speak the language after studying it for three years or more if you consider the time I spent in high school. I lost 15 pounds in a week because I couldn't figure out when I could actually eat lunch and dinner in this culture. My first trip to the market was a disaster, unable to find much of anything but bread and cornflakes. I wanted to go back to the easy life I knew in the United States. But God had something else in mind and when I bought my airline ticket home it was rejected by my bank because it was too expensive. So five months later, here I am in Spain. And I am speaking Spanish better than ever, not to mention actually finding food in the markets.

During the first few months I really had to rely on faith. I didn't know much of anyone. I didn't know where I was. I was constantly lost when I left my apartment. When I went to church on Sunday evenings, I had to walk 45 minutes each direction. But after a few months, things got easier. I began to speak better. I began to learn my way around the city. I began to rely on myself again. The routine and familiarities had set in.

So back to the quote. That path with a gentle slope, soft footing, no sudden turns, etc, is easy. In reality we have so much to be thankful for. When we are walking without trials we should be thankful for God's guidance. But when we face trials, temptations and other difficulties we should also remember to be thankful for those times as well. Through faith and navigating with God's strength, they are bearable and will eventually draw us closer to Him if we let him work.

An important step in all of this faith is prayer which is where I think my confession part of this blog really comes in. Prayer is an area where I am very weak. With eyes closed it is very easy to drift off to sleep or at least into daydreaming and not having my heart into it. And without prayer living by faith is impossible.
To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” -  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The bible says we should pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Of course going along with faith it is important to ask for guidance and help, but praise and worship and adoration are also important. Thanking God for what he has done, what he has provided (such as the aforementioned trials) and thanking Him for who He is are all just as important and maybe more important. For me I find myself praying only when I really need something. And even then its maybe a sentence or two, after all, I don't want to fall asleep.

Life is so much better with a good prayer life. On the uphill slopes of that roller coaster, I would often start my day reading God's word and praying. Those days went by much smoother. Not to say that there weren't any problems, but when those problems arose they didn't seem so bad. They were in perspective.

But as I fall back into the normal, everyday life, living on my own, prayer becomes a thing of my past. I don't have the time. That is such a lie. All I have is time. Most of the time, I am bored. Yet, I am not going to the Word. I am not getting on my knees. Even if I were really busy, that still isn't much of an excuse. I am reminded of a few times that Jesus prayed.
Mark 1:35: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed (NIV)."
Luke 6:12 "One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God (NIV)."
Jesus made time to pray. It was a priority to speak to his Father. Not only did Jesus get up early, he got up VERY early, to pray. I am lucky to get myself out of bed to be at work at 9:30 in the morning, much less getting up while it was still dark. In the second instance above Jesus spent the night praying. As I said, after five minutes of prayer I tend to be off in my own thoughts, no longer in communion with God. It is kind of like me reading, when I come across a word that triggers another thought, I am gone. I may read three pages only to realize I have no clue what happened.  In both instances he was in a solitary place, by himself, without distractions.

I really want to improve in my prayer life -- not only with the prayer but also quiet time in general. I want to spend more time reading God's word. I want to listen. I want to walk by faith, not by my own understanding. I want to continue on this journey and hopefully there will be more uphill slopes on the roller coaster. I don't want it to level out; I want to keep growing in my faith. And although I know there will be downhill portions inevitably, I want to see more and more uphill slopes, growing in my faith and growing closer to God through Christ.

But what if my prayers aren't answered? Here is one more quote to ponder.
All prayers are answered if we are willing to admit sometimes the answer is "no."- Unknown

I realize that not everyone will agree with this. Please be respectful, but I look forward to your comments. What do you think about these quotes? What do you agree with? Disagree with? Why?

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