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PRAY AND OBEY

Sometimes people confuse the purpose of prayer. A preacher asked little Tommy in Sunday school class, "Do you say your prayers at night?" The five year old said, "Yes, sir." The preacher then asked, "Do you say them in the morning, too?" Tommy answered, "No, sir. I ain't scared in the daytime." A Bible class teacher asked a little girl if she said her prayers every night. "No, not every night," declared the child, " because some nights I don't want anything." A little boy was doing only slightly better when he was overheard at bedtime praying, "I'm not praying for anything for myself. . just a new bike for my brother that we can both ride!" We laugh at these childish and immature prayers precisely because they are childish and immature. They see prayer as a way of compelling God to give us what we want instead of allowing God to give us what we need. Wise parents understand how wrong and bad and harmful it is to "spoil" a child by giving him/her everything they ask for. As the old adage notes, give a pig and a boy everything g they want and you get a good pig and a bad boy. We learn from the Bible that prayer is not about getting God to do what we want - it is about getting ourselves to do what God wants. 

Fifteen years ago an older Christian friend shared with me a statement from a sermon still lodged in his heart from several years before. The preacher had said, "The Christian life can be summed up in three words "Pray and obey." I don't know why, but those simple words have stuck in my own heart over the years. Christians are people who are seeking not only to learn God's will but also to align themselves with that will and live it out in a world that is radically self-willed. "Not My will but Thine" we hear Jesus praying as He wrestled with the will of God in Gethsemane hours before the agony of the cross. Jesus was praying in order to obey. First John 3:22 reminds us Christians should pray and obey "whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight." George Buttrick said, "Prayer is not a substitute for work, thinking, watching, suffering, or giving; prayer is a support for all other efforts" (quoted by Charles Swindoll, p 454 The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart). A preacher said, "I've been working on my calories prayer and when I get it together, I'm going to pray calories out of food. I haven't quite mastered it yet. . . .As of now, the prayer will work, but you got to jog while you pray." That theology on prayer is not far off the mark. The Good Book teaches God's children to pray and obey !

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ