5 (More) Thoughts on Prayer
With the goal of “emptying my bucket” on the subject, here goes . . .
- Some of my prayers, if answered, might not be in my best interest or in the best interest of others. Sometimes, suffering is both necessary and productive, although it’s hard to see it from our limited human perspective. I heard Charles Stanley say that rescuing someone from difficulty can actually get in God’s way and be the worst thing for them, postponing their learning what He wants them to learn.
- I can ask for stupid things, like “give me patience quickly.” I can get caught up in the emotion of things and find myself telling God dumb stuff and asking Him to solve a problem that I know how to solve. We laugh together as I withdraw my request and get started.
- Sometimes, my prayers conflict with the prayers of others. I remember hearing a guy talking about praying he’d win a big contract. He prayed the “prayer of Jabez” and asked God to expand his borders. I couldn’t help but think of his competitor who was also praying the prayer of Jabez. One contract, two competitors, two prayers, only one is going to be given what he’s asked for. Just as my sister and I cancel out each other’s vote at every election, maybe two prayers asking for opposite outcomes cancel each other out? Weird thought.
- Prayer, especially when we pray for ourselves, can clarify our motives. But it can also lead to self-deception. We want what we want when we want it, not what God wants to give when He wants to give it. We can want something so bad . . . pray for it so hard that we become convinced it’s “God’s will” when it’s not. He promises what we need, not what we want.
- Never forget that our prayers are hindered by our sin (James 4:3). Richard Foster writes, “Our sin, by it’s very nature, separates us from God, rupturing the intimate fellowship and dulling our spiritual sensitivities. We become near-sighted and develop thickened eardrums.”
We need an ever-increasing ability to discern God’s will and God’s hand in our lives.
The most valuable thing we have is our relationship with God through life, not the perceived ability to change life through our relationship with Him.
Perhaps this prayer sums up all I’ve tried to say about prayer . . .
A CONFEDERATE SOLDIER’S PRAYER
(Attributed to a battle weary C.S.A soldier near the end of the war)
I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men most richly blessed.