The Genie Prayer


In a self-absorbed culture, we are called to pray for more than our own needs and desires.

I adore the movie Aladdin. I love the romance between the beautiful Jasmine and handsome Aladdin, the setting is mystical and exotic, and Abu keeps me laughing. But my favorite character in that movie is the big, blue genie. 

I think there is a part of each of us that would love to discover a genie in a bottle who is willing and able to grant us at least three wishes. It’s fun to think about the ability to have riches or romance or fame by simply asking for it. 

It certainly makes for a great Hollywood plot. But it’s a dangerous way to relate to God. 

So many of us pray like God is our personal genie. We want him to fix our problems and we want Him to fix them right now. 

One study found that most teens that pray regularly admit that the majority of their prayer time is spent petitioning God. 

77% commonly pray for a sick friend or relative
72% petition God for personal needs
51% pray for global concerns
23% ask for material things 

It’s certainly okay to talk to God about your needs. 

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

But when we spend all or most of our prayer time submitting a wish list to God, our relationship with Him becomes flat. The Truth is, our prayer lives should include thanksgiving (Psalm 136:1), confession of sin (Psalm 32:5) and intercession for others (James 5:16). In addition, there are many times when we need to be still and silent before God (Psalm 46:10) rather than coming to him with our laundry list. 

The Bible also shows us that God is more concerned with changing us to be a reflection of Christ than with solving all of our problems. When was the last time you asked Him to make you more Christlike or to use a current trial to shape you to be more like Him? 

Yeah, it’s been a while for me too. 

Jesus knew that we’d have a tendency to get sidetracked in this area. So, in the Bible He teaches us how to pray. 

In Matthew 6:5-13 we read, “ And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth; they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 

This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.’” 

I don’t think that Jesus intended us to only use these exact words when we pray. Rather, this is to be a model for the way we communicate with Him. 

In what ways is this prayer different from the way you usually pray?
What does Jesus include in this prayer in addition to asking God to meet his needs?
What does this passage teach us about the way God feels about prayer?
How can you change the way that you pray to better match this model?

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