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The way we pray

Caramie SchnellVail, CO Colorado
Dawn Beacon/Vail DailyAmerica's National Day of Prayer is May 3.
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Prayer plays a huge role at Calvary Chapel, said Pastor Nathan Boe. “It’s the way we talk to God,” he said simply.God must be busy – in addition to listening to prayers thought silently and said aloud, He actively monitors busy phone lines and an overflowing e-mail account.When Erik Williams explains the concept of prayer to children he uses a familiar analogy.”God is sitting at His desk with a telephone and somehow, in some way, whenever you want to talk to him, he picks up. It’s always you and he is always wanting and willing to listen. “I also tell the kids it’s speaker phone, and the best and worst part is it’s always on.”Prayer is a constant dialogue with God, said Williams, who is the youth pastor at Mount of the Holy Cross Lutheran Church. “I want (the kids) to know it’s not just sit down, bow your head and you have to be in church and have your shirt tucked in to pray … it’s ‘dear God, please help my neighbor who has cancer,’ but it’s a conversation too,” he said.Citing things like the recent Virginia Tech massacre and near-daily tragic news about the war in Iraq, Williams said prayer is, if anything, more relevant today. “It seems like people’s two frames of reference in dealing with God are either Bible times or today times. When God walked on water, prayer wasn’t as necessary at a time like that because people saw and had that belief. Now it’s the same dialogue people had a long time ago – it’s just a different format.”What people pray forCalvary Chapel’s senior pastor, Tommy Schneider, asks the congregation for prayer requests each Sunday and prays with everyone at the service. The staff takes time out to pray once a week at the office. There is also a prayer chain that several elders and staff members are a part of – in an emergency they’ll use the phone to pass along the prayer request but most of the time it’s through e-mail, Boe said. Like many churches, prayer has changed with the advent of technology – there’s a place on the Calvary Chapel’s website (www.ccvv.org) to submit prayer requests. Religious channels abound on cable television and numberless prayer circles and groups can be found via the Internet.Beliefnet.com, the leading multifaith Internet site has over 60,000 prayer circles that were created by the site’s subscribers. Some of the prayer requests are for incredibly compelling things – a 6-month-old baby’s brain cyst, a wife praying for her husband whose only brother was kidnapped 6 months before, or “sitz, j – Young woman hooked on crack. She has 2 children who have been abused by their father.”U.S. News teamed up with the site in 2004 to create an online survey to find out, among other things, what people pray for and why. The short answer is everything – from health and safety, to personal finances, and God’s guidance. One survey respondent prayed to stop smoking and “the nicotine addiction was gone immediately after I prayed.” Another person said at the age of 8 they prayed for a brother or sister and didn’t tell anyone but God. “My mother was very shocked when she became pregnant. She was almost 40.”Though social scientists don’t view the 5,600 responses garnered as statistically valid, the responses “reveal a rich and often colorful anecdotal peek into the wildly varied reasons people say that they pray,” the U.S. News article, “How we talk to God,” said.Of those that took the survey more than 1 in 3 people said the most important reason for prayer was “intimacy with God.” Almost three fourths of the Christians that responded said they pray more than once a day, while 37 percent of Jews and 91 percent of Muslims surveyed say they pray more than once a day. Their prayers are “sometimes” or “often” answered, and if they’re not, it’s likely because it “wasn’t in God’s plan,” rather than because “God is punishing you.”

In God’s timeEagle resident Rob Bowles said he prays all through the day, every day to God, “but I’m not on my knees praying all day,” rather it’s an ongoing conversation – ‘God, who do I need to talk to? How do you want me to handle this? Give me the right words.’ Or, sometimes – ‘give me no words.'” Bowles also prays daily with his wife and four children. After the Virginia Tech shooting, the family prayed together for the students and the families affected. “We prayed for comforting – that God would bring people to comfort them and grieve with them. And that as people were looking for answers, that they’d be open to receiving God’s love.”Prayer isn’t for God, but instead for His people, Bowles said.”There’s a verse in the Bible in Matthew where Jesus says your father knows what you need before you ask. That makes me go, you’re not telling God something he doesn’t already know when you pray, so the prayer must be for us.”Just because you pray for something, doesn’t neccessarily mean God’s going to give it to you or answer your prayer. “You’re praying heal this, and He may go I’m going to give you the power to endure it,” Bowles said.”Everyone wants a miracle of healing or wealth – to me the biggest miracles for me have been a change of heart,” he said.Seemingly unanswered prayers are one of the hardest things people face, Pastor Williams said, and often have questions about.”We expect Him to answer in our time, but that’s not the way God works. When my wife and I were trying to get pregnant, we kept praying please let it happen this month. It happened after three months – in God’s time. Had it been any different I wouldn’t have this same little baby.”No prayer goes unheeded by God, Williams said, though some prayers are unanswered. “You pray ‘save my grandfather from cancer,’ and then your grandpa died, well technically that would be unanswered. But we’re not asking the teacher to let us go to the bathroom here, we’re asking for something a whole lot bigger.”Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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