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THE PRAYING DRUNK

Jane M. Phinney | Aug. 17, 2020 |


My honey often tells me what a great intercessor I am. And I cringe when I hear him say it. Throughout my adult years, I have had to unlearn some earlier theology on prayer. What you are initially taught isn’t necessarily incorrect. But, your personal understanding & interpretation can be. As first pointed out by my long-ago youth pastor, the same words can mean different things to people, depending on your life experience. And this can affect your relationships. The acronym I learned early on regarding prayer never did satisfy, or fill, the hole in my soul. It made prayer seem like a step-by-step formula or a box to be checked off. If you went about praying a certain way, you were good to go. My perception of God in years past was that if I did my part, He was somehow obligated to answer in like manner. That is simply not true.

I remember my simple, uncomplicated prayers as a child. I felt different, in a relieving sort of way, when I said “Amen.” I didn’t go through a mental checklist of how-to-do-it or consider if I used the proper words or if I completed all the steps(rules). I’m not sure when those snares became an issue in my mind. But they did, & that’s all it takes for the enemy to cause confusion & rob your mind of peace. Perhaps this is one reason why Jesus admonishes us to become like children to enter His kingdom. Children possess a refreshing, unassuming innocence that allows them the luxury of being completely honest…as embarrassing as that may be to their parents. 😊 In relationship to God in prayer, that character trait is not embarrassing to Him.

As an adult, my prayer analysis was put under scrutiny when I discovered the rich Truth in Luke 18:1. “Now He (Jesus) was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray & not to lose heart.” The verse stopped me dead in my spiritual tracks! Generally, if I am stuck in a place of defeat & discouragement, I have not been communicating like a child to my Father. Proactively, if I don’t want to lose heart about things I can’t control (most of life), I endeavor to pray about everything as it happens. Without ceasing, as it states in I Thess. 5:17, because life’s challenges never end on earth. In student level status, I feel like I’m still in junior high in the “unceasing class.” Overall, prayer is first about the relationship interaction/intimacy with God, & second about presenting my concerns & desires. God is not a slot machine…prayer in…you get back out what you want. I have learned 2 things about myself. In order to keep my mind focused in prayer, it’s critical that I either pray aloud or that I journal my prayers. There is something about hearing yourself address God that is humbling & sanctifying. I am not as apt to be distracted by things going on around me nor do I assume I know best how God should answer my request. Likewise, when journaling, I feel “taught” as I see my heart take shape on paper -- my thoughts intermingled with Biblical, Spirit-directed Truth.

This brings me to this week’s discovery of “the praying drunk.” The story I read is not new but just maybe I was ready to see my life in a renewed light. This woman was struggling with sadness & bitterness over unfulfilled dreams. Can you relate? She is found pouring out everything that was bothering her to the Lord in prayer. It should be noted that she was asking for God’s favor in her situation, not demanding it. Lost in her own world, she exposes everything in her heart before the Lord. Unknown to her, she is being watched & prematurely judged by her spiritual authority. He rebukes her with, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” You’ve likely deduced that the woman I’m referencing is Hannah & her accuser is Eli, the priest. I Samuel 1:12 & 13 says that as Hannah’s prayers continued (multiplied) before the Lord, Eli watched her mouth. Her voice was not heard & only her lips were moving. So he erroneously concluded that she was drunk.

I’ve never been accused of being intoxicated because I was praying. That could be because I’m not one to pray through my deepest longings in a public setting. But knowing myself as I do, I’m pretty sure I might have been offended! I do not believe this was true for Hannah. She knew where she was (in God’s temple), she knew why she was there & she knew Who she was petitioning. She didn’t want to be considered a worthless woman, literally translated “good-for-nothing & wicked.” I think (though I cannot prove it) that her concern was more for God’s reputation than her own…that Eli might think she was purposely defiling the temple with drunkenness. Hannah explains to Eli that she is sad & heavy in spirit, that she hasn’t had any wine or strong drink, & that she has poured out her soul before the Lord.

Hannah’s pouring out of her soul captured my heart. Isn’t this truly at the center of intimacy…a pouring out of all that you are to someone you feel safe with? Isn’t this truly what a dynamic prayer life with our heavenly Father is…made possible by the sacrifice of Christ when He exchanged our sin for His righteousness? You drop your guard when you realize He knows about your concerns anyway. Since He understands you better than you understand yourself, working things out with Him is a win-win for everyone. You feel relieved, loved, & understood…resulting in an increased godly confidence & awareness of His presence. Plus, you have avoided a potential lifetime of problems trying to figure out things with your limited human perspective. Prayer can also be a safeguard from involvement in gossip & consequent destruction in human relationships. It is very sad when prayer requests are changed by people adding their two cents & passed along under the guise of compassion. God help us not to be part of someone else’s hurt in hard times!

There are 4 direct references to “pouring out,” all pointing to a tell-all security with the Lord. “And now my soul is poured out within me; days of affliction have seized me…These things I remember, & I pour out my soul within me…Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us…Arise, cry aloud in the night at the beginning of the night watches; pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord.” (Job 30:16; Psalm 42:4; Psalm 62:8, Lamentations 2:19) The Hebrew word used here is shaphak & metaphorically means “to bear one’s soul in tears & complaints.” I love the water analogy! I can easily relate to that daily.

To learn about all the details in Hannah’s story, read I Samuel, chapters 1-4. Hannah’s prayers were the springboard, literally, to a lifetime of changes in the nation of Israel. God birthed one of the most faithful prophets of old through this humble, dependent, honest & believing woman. But the foundation of it all was Hannah’s powerful faith in God’s character. She entrusted her dreams & the outcomes to Him. My grandpa Dingamen used to say that leaving your troubles to the Lord at the end of the day was like dropping your clothes by the side of your bed, then crawling into comfort for a good night’s sleep. You can again embrace what God has given when you get up the next day. We do not help ourselves, or anyone else, when we lose sleep trying to figure things out. Hannah knew that. She prayed away her worry & concerns. After Eli blessed her, she went on her way & ate, & her face was no longer sad. (I Samuel 1:17 & 18) I want to have the attitude of my praying grandpa while living out the believing-without-seeing faith of Hannah.

We look upon prayer as a means of getting things for ourselves; the Bible idea of prayer is that we may get to know God Himself. We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on the difficulties.” (Oswald Chambers)

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