"A traveler in China visited a heathen temple on a great feast day. Many worshippers of the hideous idol were in its sacred shrine. The visitor noticed that most of the devotees brought with them small pieces of paper on which prayers had been written or printed. These they would wrap up in little balls of stiff mud and fling at the idol. He asked the reason for this strange proceeding, and was told that if the mud ball stuck fast to the idol, then the prayer would assuredly be answered; but if the mud fell off, the prayer was rejected by the god." (from The Kneeling Christian, p.5)
You may immediately be thankful that our God does not required us to throw mud balls or spit balls at some idol to test the acceptability or validity of our prayers. Could you imagine what our churches would look like?
But don't we often struggle with the desire to have tangible evidence for our prayers --either to know that they are heard or that they have been acceptable or that we are entering into the Lord's presence with the proper motive and intentions. Wouldn't it be nice to have an audible "ding" to know that what you have just prayed was ok and it has been "sent and received"? Or maybe a "gong" when you prayed with some unconfessed sin in your heart (maybe you weren't even aware of it) and you need to get right with God first before you prayed? Of course, if we were praying in a group, we would want to be sure that those sounds could only be heard by us. How embarrassing if you were the one saying grace and were "gonged"?? Uhhh.....there might be a lot less praying if God "gonged" us.
Stop and think about this for just a moment, though. How many times have we prayed out of a routine or habit or a mode of "check the box, that is done for today"? Or prayed with our list and it sounded something like this "give me this, I want that, bless me Lord I pray". Or we go to the Lord with our "shopping list prayers"....you know what that looks like - it is a list of things that we need, want, desire and we may have things for others on that list but it is truly a shopping list of things that we want God to do or provide for us. We have totally missed the mark of coming to God out of a relationship with Him.
Hmmm....so how do our prayers differ from the worshippers in China who were throwing mudballs at their god?