I've learned a whole lot about obedience from my parents. My mom was a strong Korean woman--a tiger mom--who was an authority figure in my life. My father was a man of few words, and his actions spoke louder than words. So, what few words he said were weighty and powerful.
I also learned about obedience through the Scripture. The Bible is filled with precepts, laws, commands, examples, and instructions that teach about obeying God. But, obeying God requires faith, or what J.P. Moreland calls "confidence," in God. Some say that faith is a gift from God, and I believe that. But, faith can be learned as well.
Allow me to explain the concept of faith, confidence, or trust through the following example. When I drive, I am so thankful that there are lines separating cars moving in opposite directions. And, I trust those lines because they don't move or change. So, as long as I stay within the lines, and as long as other drivers also do the same, I have "confidence" that I can get from Point A to Point B without getting into an accident. So, you see, the type of confidence and trust in something or someone can be attained through consistent application of rules or laws.
It's the same with God. First, He gives us guidelines to follow. Second, His guidelines don't change--indeed, He Himself does not change. Third, we need to trust God or be willing to follow His guidelines. Fourth, over time, we can be confident that God's guidelines are there to protect us, bless us, and give us abudant life. Thus, even when life doesn't make sense, we can reflect on God's faithfulness, His promises, His fatherly heart, and continue to trust Him. We can place our faith in the immovable and unchanging God.
Life is unpredictable. It is a road replete with twisting forks. You and I cannot predict what will happen in the future. But, it can be managed by following God's rules, laws, and guidelines. In other words, we must be willing to obey, hear, and trust His guidance, leadership, and nudging.
We need both faith (confidence in God) and obedience to make it through life. Risks and dangers will always be present in the journey. And, since the Maker has designed life to be full or risks that will further increase our faith and obedience in Him, well, we better embrace not only life's "ups" but "downs" as well.
I was brought up in a Buddhist family. I remember frequenting temples, bowing and praying to golden figures. I remember hearing from my mother that Buddha will open his eyes and acknowledge my prayer if I bowed 1000 times. Talk about “earning a favor” from a god!
I am glad that God of Christianity does not require certain forms or rituals of prayer. Of course, I am well aware of the various forms or types of prayer mentioned in the Bible. But, there is no specific requirement that says you have to bow 1,000 times, crawl all the way to a temple, repeat mantras over and over, etc. in order to get your prayers answered.
What Jesus taught was not about the physical attributes of prayer. What He emphasized were the attitude behind prayer, what to specifically pray for, and how to align our heart to God’s will. He also taught that God hears us because He cares. God knows my heart, what I'm concerned about, and what is best for me beforehand.
I want to share with you a few things that might help you with your prayer life.
First, prayer works. It has worked for me, and it works for billions and billions of people all over the world. It worked in the past, it works today, and it will continue to work in the future. We cannot deny that prayer works if we’re honest about all the big and small prayers that are answered every single day.
Second, many of our prayers are not answered because they are not aligned to the Father’s will and plan. Too many of us lift up prayers that are illogical, irresponsible, and ill-timed: “Let me win the lottery,” “I want a Ferrari,” “Help me get an A on the test” etc. Which of us as parents would answer such requests made by our children? Irresponsible prayers are indicative of our spiritual, emotional, and relational immaturity. Such prayers will not be answered. Prayers that God answers are those that are aligned to His will and purpose: building, edifying, expanding, and blessing His Kingdom and people. If our prayers are aligned to His will, we know He will answer us.
Third, answers to our prayer may come in the forms of “No”, “Yes”, “Wait”, and “I’ve got something better for you.” Obviously, “No” and “Yes” are pretty easy to discern. “Wait” and “I’ve got something better for you” are difficult to process because patience is required. My experience tells me that God’s timing is usually “later” than mine. Honestly, that shouldn’t surprise any of us since our time-frame is pretty much now or yesterday. When He tells us to wait, it’s usually because He has something better in store for us—He makes our waiting, well, worth the wait.
Fourth, we must keep in mind that prayer does not change His mind but ours. In many instances, our desired answers change as we keep on praying. Over time, we begin to understand His time-frame or His will more clearly. Sometimes, we simply know that God will answer our prayer according to His will, and we “move on” to other prayer topics.
Fifth, let’s not say, “Well, I’ve tried everything else, so all I can do is pray.” That relegates prayer to the last option. Let’s turn prayer into the first option, something to do before doing anything else. Praying first (1) respects and honors God, (2) invites and welcomes His direction, and (3) attests to our confidence in Him. Let’s not use prayer as the last resort--pray and seek His wisdom first and foremost.
All in all, though prayer doesn’t work the way we want it to, it works and works well according His will. We may not get exactly what we’re asking for, but God typically answers with something better. Remember, He is not a genie in a bottle--He is not into granting wishes. He is willing and able to meet all of our needs, but He does so according to His pleasure and plan. He is a prayer-answering Father, a loving and kind and generous Heavenly Father.
So, talk to Him. Lift up your prayers to Him. Wait on Him. Expect His answers and experience God who desires the very best for you.