In 1952, Albert Einstein was delivering a lecture on the campus of Princeton University. A doctoral student asked the famous scientist, “What is there left in the world for original dissertation research?” With considerate thought, Einstein replied, “Find out about prayer. Somebody must find out about prayer.”
F.B. Meyer, author of The Secret of Guidance, might have consoled Einstein with his writing: “Prayer is, for the most part, an untapped resource, an unexplored continent where untold treasure remains to be unearthed. It is talked about more than anything else, and practiced less than anything else. And yet, for the believer it remains one of the greatest gifts our Lord has given us outside of salvation.”
Still, the majority of Christians reject this miraculous resource.
For the past few years I have used a power tooth brush. Built into it is a little timer that shuts itself off after two minutes. Flossing adds another minute. Gargling and rinsing, a few seconds more.
From beginning to end, no more than four minutes is used…the same amount of time most Christians (according to statistics) spend in prayer. If that isn’t tragic enough, most of those five minute prayers are spent asking for something. No wonder our faith remains powerless. We expect the Creator of the universe to stay on call to meet our every desire, ready to jump when we order Him to, yet our teeth get the same attention He does.
What’s wrong with this picture?
I recently read a story of a minister observing a young boy kneeling in church praying fervently, repeating the words “Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo.” The preacher approached the boy after he finished his prayer and said, “Son, I was very pleased to see you praying so devoutly, but tell me, why did you keep saying “Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo”? The boy answered, Well, you see sir, I just finished taking my geography test in school, and I have been praying for the Lord to make Tokyo the capital of France.”
The story is a perfect illustration of how we use God. “Here’s my list, Lord. Don’t take too long to answer.” Thomas Aquinas once wrote, “It is clear that he does not pray, who, far from uplifting himself to God, requires that God shall lower Himself to him, and who resorts to prayer not to stir the man in us to will what God wills, but only to persuade God to will what the man in us wills.”
Oh my, the cry is desperate! Even Jesus, giving the disciples an example of how to pray, used the phrase “Thy will be done” while speaking to his Father in the Lord’s prayer. It has nothing to do with “my” will. We need to learn to pray to accept what God has for us, good and bad. Does that mean that we don’t petition God to hear our pleas? Absolutely not. It simply changes our focus from “Me” to “Him.”
Mother Teresa’s life-changing message resounds with confidence: “Prayer is not asking. Prayer is putting oneself in the hands of God, at His disposition, and listening to His voice in the depth of our hearts.”
Perhaps Einstein just needed to know whom to ask.