It’s easy to make daily prayers into a long shopping list of wants and needs. Help so-and-so. Heal him. Travel mercies for her. Find a husband/wife. Give them/me a child. “Give” me patience, humility, forgiveness… GIVE ME…
Well, God’s word DID say “ask and you will receive…” and “you do not have because you do not ask God.”
It also says, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
We can get seduced into believing that by asking God for all these favors, that we are trusting him, and that we have faith.
I recently was blessed with the privilege of leading a women’s bible study that consisted of some young, baby Christians, who were starting life in a very tough and competitive city. To be sure, they had some serious problems and prayer requests. The “I” and “ME” were strong for a few. For some, there was a definite sense of causality. “IF I am to be a believer, THEN I need proof that God answers MY prayers.” At times it fell on deaf ears to remind the young ladies that God ALWAYS answers prayers; it’s just that the answers can be “yes,” “no” or “wait.” And when we keep a prayer journal, we start to see a pattern of how God answers prayer for our good. Obviously most of us pray expecting the “yes” answer. Anything else might cause us to question God’s love, or very existence or relevance in our lives. It further challenged a few (just as it challenges me) that in order to “hear” and understand God’s voice, we needed to read and listen to God’s Word daily. The further away I am from daily time in The Word, the more I’m out of touch in my prayers.
Yes, God’s Word tells us that he will give us the desires of our heart… but our hearts need to be aligned with God’s will.
If you’ve lived any space of time, you more than likely have prayed for something that later you thank God didn’t come true. We’ve all heard the saying “Be careful what you pray for…” I think back on some of my requests of God, and fall prostrate with thanks that God, in his sovereign knowledge, didn’t answer as I had prayed. Anyone who has kept a journal for more than a few years should be able to look back and see this.
My once flailing marriage? I
complained prayed to God constantly. My prayer most often was, “change him,” or “make him do xyz…” It took me a long time to begin praying about what I needed to change or do to rescue our marriage.
Of course God wants us to bring our requests to Him. He wants us to believe that He hears and answers prayers. But there are few more things we are called to do in our prayers, or conversations with our Creator.
Years ago, I was given an acronym or mnemonic to help me understand HOW to pray: A-S-K. I hope it perhaps gives you a new perspective on what prayer can be. I, for one, need to be reminded of this often!
A – Acknowledge who God is. Think about all the blessings, every thing God does to give and sustain life. Acknowledge his undeserved love and forgiveness. (A few good sources: the creation story in Genesis; Psalms; God’s response to Job’s laments).
C – Confess sin. Not one of us is without sin. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And guess what? God knows this about us, He’s not surprised. The entire Old Testament documents our sinful nature, and our need for a savior. Confess how you have not glorified God in you life, in your relationships. Confess how you’ve been less than loving.
T – Thanksgiving. This is a bit different from Acknowledging. This involves actively thanking God for all the many general and specific blessings He’s bestowed on us, not the least of which is salvation by faith through grace, and His endless love. Thank God for all the little things you take for granted: if you rose from bed and stood up, thank Him for that. If you woke up and had to move to a wheelchair, thank Him. If you are privileged enough to have electricity to power up your computer, and able to read this, thank Him. Blessed be His name, even on the road marked with suffering, pain, through every darkness–and not just the good times.
S – Supplication. After all the above, hopefully your mindset is off the “shopping list” of requests, and on to what God’s will for you is. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit intercedes for us with groans. Ask for the Holy Spirit to guide your requests. And no, there is no request that is too small or too big. God can answer them all, but He has the option to say “yes,” “no,” or “wait.”