Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thirsty Thursday: How does one pray for a job?

A friend posed an interesting question on my facebook wall the other day. It seemed an innocent enough question, but brings up so much more than what is on the surface.

How does one pray for a job?

Seems simple enough, right?  You're looking for a job, it's only right to want to know how to get God on your side. In this job market, you need all the help you can get.  Divine help is even better.

As Americans today, we tend to define prayer as a way to get what we want.  Even those who don't buy into the "health and wealth gospel"  tend to fall into the pattern of "to-do list prayer."  We like lists.  We like to go around in circles and share what's wrong in our life that we'd like God to swoop in and fix.  We want to believe that if we have enough faith and pray the right way, God will hear our prayers and bring us out of our bad circumstances, send us the money to pay our two car payments and high credit card bills, cure our sister's father-in-law's brother's dog of his tumor and if we're REALLY faithful, He might help out Johnny on his report card this semester.  I'm sorry to report that's just not the case.  That's just not how it works.

Note: I don't think it's wrong to share prayer requests, but I think we need to be careful to remember why we are sharing them.  It's important to effective community and fellowship to know what's going on in the lives of our beloved friends around us.  If we are to be kind and loving toward them, it's helpful to know where they are at circumstantially.  Knowing what's going on in their lives can help us to know how to pray for them.  I'm just a little leery of saying things like "Pray that my car will get fixed." and things like that.  Can God change circumstances supernaturally?  Oh yeah.  I've seen it.  But it's never been the result of praying for God to take a specific action.  It's been a result of crying out in petition for God to intervene powerfully according to how HE sees fit, not how I think He should work.

I'm not just some silly radical with a blog who says so because I like to rant.  There are some pretty well-respected people who would agree with me on this one.  You know, like Richard Foster and Oswald Chambers- both of whom are way smarter than me and who know alot more about God and how He works.

In his marvelous little book, If You Will Ask, Chambers says,

'Your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.' Matthew 6:8. Then why ask?. . .The purpose of prayer is to reveal the presence of God, equally present at all times and in every condition.

The purpose of prayer is not to fix things.  It is to commune with God, to build relationship with our Savior, to feel His presence and to learn to hear Him more everyday.  God hears our prayers.  He hears the cries of His beloved and He does intervene because of prayer.  The problem is when the prayer is not about seeking Him and His will and becomes about what we want or how we think things should go.  Ever prayed for something and gotten mad at God because a person still died or you couldn't afford the house you wanted or you lost out on a job opportunity? Or maybe you didn't get mad at God, but you concluded you must have prayed wrong?  Perhaps you didn't see the answer because it wasn't exactly what you asked God to do.

Rather than ask, "How does one pray for a job?" rather ask, "How do I grow closer to God in this situation?" or "What is God speaking to me about this?" This doesn't mean we can't pray about a job situation.  But the point of the prayer should not be about how to get a new job. Rather, share your feelings and pain with God, ask for comfort and healing and for Christ to help you rise above the circumstances.  When you focus on God, His Spirit becomes easier to hear and follow.  God doesn't promise things will always go "right" for us, but He does promise that He'll be there with us through it all.  We just have to call on Him.

When Jesus was asked by His disciples how we should pray, He gave a very simple answer (Mathew 6:9-13).
   9This, then, is how you should pray:
   ‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
   on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
   as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
   but deliver us from the evil one.’
Stop and read that slowly. . . out loud if you need to. This is something we recite (depending on your denomination's liturgy or lack thereof) weekly, but do we really stop to look at it as our instruction on how to pray faithfully and effectively?  This isn't just some theologian talking here in this passage- it's the Messiah Himself!

Speaking of theologians. . . I like the Apostle Paul.  He's got some good stuff to say.  About prayer, he says in I Thessalonians 5:16-18:
16(A) Rejoice always, 17(B) pray without ceasing, 18(C) give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
If we hold to the definition of prayer that makes it asking God for things we want, this seems like a really silly thing for Paul to say.  If effective prayer is asking for what we want in a way that God will give it to us and we're supposed to pray without ceasing, than we should always have what we want, right?  So why would he have to tell us to be thankful and rejoice no matter what?  Wouldn't that come naturally?  And it's not really practical to unceasingly go over our prayer list of "stuff" day in and day out.  However, if we define prayer as the practice of communication with God, that passage makes alot more sense.

In Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, Richard Foster tells us that "Our problem is that we assume prayer is something to master that way we master algebra or auto mechanics."  He then goes on to warn us, that the pendulum can swing both ways.  While Chambers warns us that prayer is about God, not us, we shouldn't let that paralyze our efforts at prayer because:

The truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives- altruistic and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. Frankly, this side of eternity we will never unravel the good from the bad, the pure from the impure.  But what I have come to see is that God is big enough to receive us with all our mixture.  We do not have to be bright, or pure, or filled with faith, or anything.  That is what grace means, and not only are we saved by grace, we live by it as well.  And we pray by it.
 So, to answer the original question of how does one pray for a job?  There isn't a formula.  There isn't a right or wrong way.  But remember that we are not the reason we pray.  Our prayers are not about fixing our life or situation.  Our prayers are about real, honest communication with God that He has, in His great grace, offered us the opportunity to have.  Pray expecting God to move, but expect Him to move unexpectedly.  Maybe He doesn't have a job in His plans for you right now.  Maybe He has a surprising and unexpected job planned for you. Don't just talk while you pray, remember to also listen while you pray.  Pray honestly and pray by grace.

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