The Rev is a lonely man most of the time. He likes it that way. If it is not immediately obvious, he has a low opinion of man. Little interaction with human’s is fine. It probably comes from psychological projection but that’s another matter.
Yet his loneliness got the better of him so he ‘invested’ in companionship, i.e. he got a dog. Specifically a St. Bernard, named St. Augustine (he’s not very original with the name. He wanted to call it ‘Dog’ but he knew the breed and not knowing who St. Bernard was, he went with the only saint he liked, hence St. Augustine.)
St. Augustine, or “Dog” for short, was decidedly stubborn. The Rev did not enjoy the ‘spiritual mentoring’, especially where personal hygiene and slobbering were concerned. St. Augustine is a big dog, so what comes out of him is also….big.
The Rev did manage to achieve a level of discipline with the toileting but the dog was not to be mastered as far as the slobbering was concerned. No matter how much he asked, no matter all the attempts he made to adapt, it was not in the dog’s nature to stop dribbling. It got the Rev thinking about prayer, especially 1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”
What actually happens when you pray? What is actually going on? Indeed, how much attention does God pay to you? It’s a distressing thought to know that sometimes God does not listen. God specifically told Jeremiah not to pray for His people, because he would not listen. So in some respects one consequence of sin is that prayers can fall on deaf ears.
What are we trying to achieve when we pray? Pharisees, the ones Jesus highlights in Matthew 6:5 are interested in being recognised for their spirituality. It’s inconsequential whether God hears or not. For the penitent man, when he prays, is he trying to change God’s mind in some way, perhaps so that his circumstances could be different? When churches pray for their sick members, healing from the sickness is often in the mind, if not always in the words. And if the sick person is not healed, it is often concluded that it just wasn’t God’s timing (the Rev has never really understood what that means, especially should the person die. It sounds too much like God is fatalistic and his hands are tied. ‘It was all in the plan and you have to follow the plan…’ Since when is God bound by a plan?)
So what happens when you pray? It is good to bear in mind who you are talking to when you pray, if you are genuine. For Our Heavenly Father is also the Lord of all creation, the ruler of the stars, the keeper of the animals in the sky, sea and land. He is the creator of the wind and the waves. He is the master physician, the precision architect and the artist par excellence. Who are you talking to when you pray? Do you need to spout off lots of words as though you need to impress him? Is he not loving and kind and generous? “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Matthew 6:8
He is the only just judge. Is He also not angry when we sin? He is the wise counsellor and faithful Father. And does he switch off when we finish praying?
When we come to God in prayer, ultimately, we are the ones who are changing, for He will not do anything that is against His will. He will not change His character just for us. We are the ones who must conform to Him. And by his help, we will think more like him. Indeed he already does. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27
Next time you ask God for anything, think about who you are talking to.