Too Busy Not To Pray

This couple of paragraphs from Hybels demonstrates the deficiency of interpreting parables as allegories better than any other that I know.

Luke says Jesus told this story to show his disciples "that they should always pray and not give up" (v. 1)A lot of readers, having come just this far in thne story, make a grave error in interpreting it. Thinking of it as an allegory, they look at it like this: We humans are like the widow. Impoverished, powerless, with no connections and no status, we are unable to handle our problems alone and feel that we have nowhere to turn. God then must be like the judge, these misguided readers continue. He's not really interested in our situation. After all, he has a universe to run, angels to keep in harmony, harps to tune. It's best not to bother him unless it's really important. If we're desperate, though, we can always do what the widow did: we can pester him. Bang on the doors of heaven. Spend hours on our knees. Ask our friends to pester him too. Sooner or later, we may wear him down and wrench a blessing from his tightly closed fist. Eventually he may shout "I can't take it anymore-somebody fix this problem!"1

According to Jesus, this story is not an allegory, where elements in the story stand for truths outside the story. Instead, it is a parable - a short story with a puzzling aspect that forces listeners to think. This particular parable is a study in opposites.2

Our words sound hollow and shallow, and we start to feel hypocritical. Soon we give up. It seems better to live with almost any difficult situation than to continue to pray ineffectively.3

So I made a difficult decision. I decided that each day I would try to honestly assess my soul's condition. I would look inside myself, and I would write down what I saw. Feeling awkward and embarrassed, I took out a spiral notebook and started to write. "God, here are some frustrations in my life. They aren't going away, so I might as well take a look at them." Or, "Here's a relationship I'm concerned about. It's not good, and I don't know how to improve it." Or, "Here are some blessings you've poured into my life." After writing a paragraph or two, I would reflect on what I had written.4

How do you pray a prayer so filled with faith that it can move a mountain? By shifting the focus from the size of your mountain to the sufficiency of the mountain mover, and by stepping forward in obedience. As you walk with God, your faith will grow, your confidence will increase, and your prayer will have power.5

A more genuine prayer might be this: "I don't want to face my own shortcomings. I don't want to work on this relationship. I don't want to change at all. Instead, I want the other person to accommodate all my personal needs, so I"m asking you to change him or her." If you pray that kind of prayer, God may say no.6

I say to these people, "Look me right in the eye and tell me if you've prayed about this fervently and regularly over an extended period of time." Usually they shift from one foot to another, look down and mumble, "Well, uh, you know, uh, I guess not."7

On practical journaling… I like Hybels' ideas. Some day if I ever have time to do this, this is what I'll do.

Every day when you open to the next blank sheet of paper, write the same first word: Yesterday. Follow this with a pragraph or two recounting yesterday's events, sort of a postgame analysis.8

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