Sunday, March 29, 2009

Why is Prayer So Boring?

In the second part of Fusion's series, "The Furnace", Todd McVicker opens by saying that if someone told him he'd be giving a message about prayer a few years ago, he would have said, "You have lost your mind." Todd is most active in the music ministry and in praise/worship through music, but he said the truth is he doesn't consider himself a "prayer guy". But God and Todd have been on a journey over the last few years learning about prayer.

"About 10 years ago, I got saved...but didn't know anything about prayer...about a year into my relationship with God, Victory (Church) was doing a 40 day fast and prayer....this was really and opportunity for me to grow...and maybe even be a prayer guy." He went to Home Depot and bought some durable letters to label his "Prayer Closet". That was going to be his place during the fast where he would pray for an hour a day. There was a big HooHa about starting the 40 days at the church and Todd was psyched. He fasted on day 1, came home and sat in the silence of a small closet to pray for an hour. "I prayed for everything." He was crying out and praying for friends, work, specific requests and anything that came to his mind. He worshipped a little and wore himself out filling the space of prayer. But when he came out of the closet, he looked at the clock and it said he'd only been praying for 15 minutes. "15 minutes!! Are you stinking kidding me?", remembers Todd, "That's all I had! I didn't have anything else..." So he went back into the closet determined to honor his commitment to pray for an hour a day. He went back into the closet, went back over many of the prayers he had offered up "and I think I even prayed about China". But when he came back out of the closet, it had only been anther 15 minutes. "That was my cycle, 15 minutes". So he went back in and forced himself to endure the last 30 minutes. This was very discouraging for Todd because when you hear people talk about prayer, "they don't say it's boring" or that it's not that fun.

Todd was determined to continue praying for days afterwards. Predictably though, as the days went by, he found himself praying less and less and then making excuses not to prayer at all. But during the 40 day fast, he said the "eating thing was going good". As a matter of fact, towards the end of his fast, he would literally lick Doritos and throw them into the trash can. "Hey, it turns into Dorito juice or something." So, from that experience, Todd decided he was just going to leave the prayer element up to the prayer people. There were other times when he would recommit, but he would have the same results which only left him feeling guilty.

"Why is it that this is so boring? Why is it such a bore and why do I have to psyche myself out, like a football player to pray? Then why doesn't it last so long? If this is our communication line with God...why is it set up this way?" Thinking about this, he mused that maybe WE have lost it somewhere. There is literally a devil in our world and maybe he has twisted the truth to convince us that God may not be all for us. Maybe somehow, Satan has perverted our prayer time.

"Let me say it this way, all the single ladies (singing to the song)...Let's say you have a friend who you trust...she tells you she has this guy you need to meet...he has money...he's nice to people...he's not shalllow...he treats people with respect...he's the man. Once she talks about him everyone else nods their heads and say 'yes'. So, you say 'When can I meet him?'...But your friend says, 'Oh, no, no,'s the catch; You don't actually get to meet him first. You have to sign up for the relationship and then you get to meet him at some point...But you trust your you enter into the relationship...Like any new's's new.. you get the get to read about him a little get a letter from him every now and then... then you get his number and call to leave a message... 'Good to talk to you...I've heard a lot about rent's a little short this month. Could you hook me up?' But you never get to talk to him, see him, share with him or meet his parents!" Todd steps back from his story and asks the single ladies how long this would last. Obviously, it wouldn't last long at all!

But isn't this what we do with God? The "tinglies" are cool. The reading about Him is nice. We send messages up to Him. Other people have met Him, but we never have and we say, "I don't know Him!" Todd reflects on this by reading from Psalms. "Psalms is like this raw, uncensored expression." Psalms 16:11 says, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence with eternal pleasures at your right hand." That, to Todd, is what prayer is. In His presence, we feel joy. Right next to Him are eternal pleasures. That is not forcing ourselves to pray.

In the movie "City of Angels", the plot is summed up by saying there is this angel and this girl. In Los Angeles, it describes how angels relate to people. There is one scene where a store is being robbed and these invisible angels come in and put their hands of comfort on everyone involved. "It's a cool scene." The main character (an angel) sort of doesn't get it. He's sent to this operating room where he is supposed to take the patient. But the surgeon, a woman, looks seemingly directly at the angel while pleading for the man's life. Although he does takes the patient to Heaven, he is moved by the woman who looked at him and asks his superior about it, but he is assured she can't see him "unless he wants her to". So, the angel later goes back to observe the doctor and watches as she is weeping on the stairs over the loss. Trying to comfort her, he shows himself to her and a relationship develops. Anther great scene is when this woman is describing how a pear tastes to t0 the angel, who himself cannot taste. At that moment though, the angel realizes that he will never truly understand this woman he is falling in love with unless he experiences what she is experiencing. So, although he is closer to heaven and hears the music of high places, he decides to give up his life as an angel to become human. Part of this process is he must fall from a high place, which turns out to be the top of a skyscraper. Standing at the top of the building, he stops and ponders, reflecting on his life as an angel. He thinks about watching the sunset and hearing the music in his head every morning. Slowly, he leans and falls. It takes a long time for him to land as all these memories of life as an angel race through his mind. Finally he hits and is knocked out. When he comes to, one of the first things he experiences is blood on his lips which causes him to be extremely excited. Todd enthusiastically says, "Guys, that was Jesus!!"

Jesus had access and the eperiences of heaven and of being in the Highest place, but He chose to put on skin to come here to earth to experience with us and to die for us. So, if he knows what we feel and knows our hurts, why is it still so hard to talk with someone who was with us and knows us?

Todd draws from the wisdom of the Bible by studying how these people prayed. First, there was Adam and Eve who "walked in the garden with God". Then, there was Enoch, who walked so much God took finally took him. Noah communicated with God by building a boat. Jacob wrestled with God. Joseph talked to God in his dreams. Moses saw God through a burning bush and then saw God in the miracles of Egypt. Moses also experienced God through "mountain climbing". Deborah experienced God through judging. Sampson experienced God through "kicking butt with jawbones". Samuel felt God through listening. David played music and wrote poetry. Regarding poetry, Todd asks, "how many times do you have to make yourself sit down to poetry if you are a poet? It comes naturally doesn't it?" Solomon studied and Job as well as Hosea suffered. Jonah was "fish food". The disciples actually got to hang around Jesus. These are our examples of relationships with God. So, if these characters of the Bible could experience these things with God, why can't we? Why can't we worship Him by interacting with His creation? Does it make any sense that he would give us sight, sound and touch only to have us worship Him in our own way by our mouths in a dark closet?

In ancient times, the Temple WAS the only place the people could go to experience God. Deep inside the Temple was the Ark of the Covenant and it was known that God was present here in what was called the "Holy of Holies". Separating the "Holy of Holies" from the other areas of the temple was a curtain that we know was 18 inches thick. Once a year, only one man was permitted to go into this part of the temple to make an offering before God. Can you imagine being that one guy? All the other people could only watch from a distance and wish that they too could have the experience.

Now, the good news is that Jesus came. In Matthew 27:50, in the agonizing moments before He was to become the Resurrected King, the curtain to the temple was torn in two. That curtain represented a distance from God, but Jesus came so that we could go into the presence before God. So, what if this new and priveleged experience could become exciting? What if there was something that could draw us in? What if there was a cross we could go to and feel? What if we could touch the wood and feel the nails? Then, what if there was piece of paper and a pen that would allow us write and then nail it to the cross? What if there was an easel that we could paint on the picture in our minds when we think of Him? Could that be a form of prayer? What if there was a table with incense that you could go to (like it tells us there is in Revelation) and it is a fragrance to God? What if we could light that incense and offer it to God before Him while smelling what he considers fragrant? What if there was music that we could really focus on and pray to Him. What if God could speak to us through the chords and the melodies? What if there was a wall with markers and we could write out on the wall right from our hearts our prayers and thoughts for him? What if there was a map where we could see the people we are praying for and what they are experiencing? Could that be prayer? What if there was a wailing wall where we could take the pictures of others who need Christ and post it for them? What if we could touch, feel, see, hear, give or write in prayer?

A couple of years ago, Todd's group started a place called the "Furnace" at Victory World Church. They did it so that they could just make our access to heaven just a little thinner. A few years ago, Todd and his wife went to Orlando to visit the church a friend of theirs started. One of the big things this church wanted was a place like the Furnace; a place just to go and dedicate time to God. Todd says his wife signed them up for 2 hours! His thoughts, at the time, were, "What the heck are going to do for 2 hours?!??" Mentally, Todd went right back to his dark, boring closet. He headed there with anticipated dread. But within minutes, Todd was weeping uncontrollably. "It felt like home." He felt amazing. In what seemed like 15 minutes, 2 hours had passed!! He spent the time painting, lighting incense, writing, listening to music and it changed Todd's life. The moment he and his wife got home, he began setting up a place in his home where he and his wife could go and truly experience God. Thank you, Todd, this was a very moving message....

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