Sunday, March 4, 2012

User Interface

Thoughts on the Sabbath School Lesson for 3.10.12

Do you know what a “user interface” is? If you do, please forgive me while I sound like I know what I’m talking about for a bit.

The “user interface” is how the user (human) interacts with an electronic device. For example, on some computers, the user interface is the keyboard and mouse; tablet computers and some phones are touch screen, so the user interface is the actual screen and a finger or stylus. Sometimes, it could be a voice into a microphone.

Well, I’m thinking that prayer is our user interface with God.

Philip Yancey explains prayer like this: 
“If prayer stands as the place where God and human beings meet, then I must learn about prayer. Most of my struggles in the Christian life circle around the same two themes: why God doesn't act the way we want God to, and why I don't act the way God wants me to. Prayer is the precise point where those themes converge.”[1]
My experience with electronics has taught me that getting used to each new user interface takes some practice, and that even then, they can be unreliable. If any of you have ever used a speech-to-print interface, you know that sometimes what you say shows up on the screen as something very different. 

Thankfully, I know that our communication with God in prayer is always reliable. My question is, though, is there a learning curve, a discipline involve in prayer, or is it ok to just wing it?  What do you think?

You have to admit when Peter was walking out on the water and he started to sink; he didn’t pause to structure his cry for help.
“And Peter answered Him and said, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ So He said, ‘Come.’ And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ Matthew 14:28-30 NKJV
If prayer is our primary means of coming into the presence of God, is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way? Should we worry about making mistakes?

Peter Kreeft is the author of the book, Prayer for Beginners. This is what he has to say about prayer.
“Prayer is easier than we think. We want to think it is too hard or too high and holy for us, because that gives us an excuse for not doing it. This is false humility. We can all do it, even the most sinful, shallow, silly, and stupid of us.“You do not have to master some mystical method. You do not have to master a method at all. Can you talk to a friend? Then you can talk to God, for he is your Friend. And that is what prayer is. The single most important piece of advice about prayer is one word: Begin! God makes it easy: just do it!“God also makes it easy to progress in prayer …. for it gradually becomes more natural and delightful.”[2]
Do you know what I notice most about what Kreeft says?  He doesn’t say anything about asking for things.  Did you notice that?  He says that if you can talk to a friend, you can talk to God.  When you talk to your friends, do you spend the whole time you’re together telling them all about the things you want and need?  Do you do all the talking so that they can’t even get a word in edgewise?  Have you ever met someone like that?  Do you enjoy being with him or her? 

When we come to God in prayer, do we just start rattling off all the things we want/need all in one breath?  Do we think of prayer as one more thing to check off our “to do” list or is it something we look forward to?  Would you describe your prayer time as “delightful?” 
“While staying alone in her convent, an 85-year-old Catholic nun got trapped inside a broken elevator for four nights and three days. She tried pushing the inside elevator door, but the electricity went off. She had her cell phone with her, but there wasn't a signal. Fortunately, she had carried a jar of water, some celery sticks, and a few cough drops into the elevator.“At first she said to herself, This can't happen! But then she decided to turn her elevator into a personal prayer retreat. ‘It was either panic or pray,’ she later told an interviewer for CNN. She started viewing the experience as a ‘gift.’ ‘I believe that God's presence was my strength and my joy—really,’ she said. ‘I felt God's presence almost immediately. I felt like he provided the opportunity for a closer relationship.’”[3]
Doesn’t that woman have an amazing understanding of her user interface with God? She could have spent her time in the elevator begging God to send someone to free her and even being angry with Him when no one came, but she made the choice to snuggle up next to God and have a good chat.  I love that last sentence of that quote. God wasn’t testing her; He didn’t allow any trial to come to her; He “provided the opportunity for a closer relationship.”

Wow, I love that! I want to feel that closeness to God.

I know there’s so much more to prayer than just talking to God. I know there’s all the ins and outs of what we should ask for, how to ask, and how to interpret the answers to our prayers. That’s important stuff. But sometimes, maybe it’s enough to be with our Best Friend and chat – not with any ulterior motives – just the desire to feel close to Him.
“Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Well-spring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience.”[4]
Can you imagine not breathing for a minute? What about two or three minutes? We have to work really hard not to breath; that’s how much our bodies need air.  Why, then, do we even consider going through a day without prayer?
“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.” Romans 12:10-13

[1] Philip Yancey, Prayer (Zondervan, 2006)
[2] Peter Kreeft, Prayer for Beginners (Ignatius, 2000), pp. 25-26
[3] Jenny Wilson, "Nun Stuck in Elevator Survives Four Nights on Celery Sticks, Water and Cough Drops," (4-28-11)
[4] Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers, pp. 254, 255

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