African American theologian Howard Thurman (1899-1981) suggests that true prayer has very little to do with bringing something external to pass; rather, it has to do with the relationship between God and those who pray. “The essence of prayer is that God answers the pray-er, which is far more important than answering a thousand prayers,” Thurman says.
As evidence, Thurman points to Jesus in the garden on the night of his arrest. Jesus does not want to die; indeed, he prays that the cup (arrest, trial, and crucifixion) would pass by him. But God does not let it pass. Instead, Jesus suffers the worst that people can do to one another, “even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
Thurman’s insight suggests that God’s answer to prayer – whether or not a particular prayer is granted – is akin to God saying, “I see you. I love you. I am with you. No matter what.”
This message is excerpted from “Closer to God” by Audrey West from the July/August 2018 Gather magazine.
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