We all pray…right? Even those who hold the most negatively adamant views regarding God will request prayer when the circumstances of their life spiral recklessly out of control. In a health crisis, a financial need, a family situation, or a simple greedy and self-absorbed request, to many, prayer is the last option on a long list of personal checklist fixes and repairs; if nothing else has worked, they may have the notion that prayer might? When all else has failed, try God; after all, that’s what He’s for…the very last option on a growing list of failed manmade schemes to get our way and find happiness...right? He certainly wouldn’t be upset that we consulted Him last, or, moreover, that we consulted Him in a veiled faithlessness…because if we’re consulting Him last, we’re more than likely consulting Him with little to no faith. If we really believed He would, or could help, we would have certainly consulted Him first, or am I wrong? There’s also the embarrassing possibility that God already knows, after consulting Him last, and in faithlessness, that He will also get our scathing personal blame for the outcome, specifically if things don’t go our way. From a prayer perspective, we can be a tough crowd. Our desires are insatiable, our requests often orginate from a heart of greed, and our patience is minimal, to say the very least.
God wants us to come to Him first…every time, in all things. But, He wants us to come to Him even when our circumstances aren’t exploding like bombs around us. God desires our constant fellowship. He wants to be involved in the moment by moment details of our life, even the ones that we consider mundane and boring. God is interested in our “boring.”
I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” How are you doing with that command? I’m not doing so well, but I’m working on it. If we are in a state of constant prayer and communication with God, then prayer would be our default in every situation, both good and bad. In that, we would be in a much more stable position to live in victory, specifically when the bad things inevitably come. But, a prerequisite of the victorious life is a strong, meaningful, and relevant life of prayer with God. The two run a stong spiritual parallel, but the victory always depends on the prayer.
Consequently, prayer is not always our first option…but, why? Why do we relentlessly try and push our communication with Almighty God to the exterior of our circumstances until the last possible moment? It’s as if we are trying to hide our need from a sovereign God, a God who knew about our need long before our birth. Possibly, we have an understanding that God’s will may not align correctly with our own sense of personalized entitlement and greed? Maybe our flamboyant narcissism hinders us from admitting that we actually need help? If we can’t do it on our own, then it’s certainly not all about us, now is it? Or maybe, just maybe, we don’t believe that God will answer our prayers our way…so why waste the time praying in the first place?
There's nothing wrong with praying for our desires. God has given us the right to bring our petitions to Him...even if they are, at times, greedy and self absorbed. We should feel comfortable in speaking our heart to God, because He already knows what we really want in the first place. He also understands that we don't have a complete understanding of His will and our requests to Him can be made in ignorance. Unfortunately, the ubiquitous presence of God doesn't always translate into relevant and trusting relationship in the life of His children.
God has a complete grasp of our real motives and intentions, and He knows the mindset in which we approach His throne, even when our real motives, when clouded by stress, frustration, greed, ignorance, and emotion are unknown to even us.
However, prayer becomes really powerful when we pray with a purposed and predetermined surrender of our own expectations to the perfect will of God, even when we're confused about the direction His will is taking us. If we are only praying for the outcomes, desires, and directions that we have already pre-evaluated to be acceptable in our lives, then we are basically praying for our will to be honored as supreme and sovereign. And often, in our eyes, God is only 'good' when He submits to the self-absorbed pseudo-sovereignty of our own desires. He’s only ‘good’ when He answers our prayers in a fashion that pleases our opinion and caters to our needs in the way that we mentally establish that He should. When we pray to God with that mindset, we’re trying to make Him into a form of puppet-genie…a God that we can control, a God only useful in filling our Christmas list of idolized requests. As Yoda would say…"A puppet-genie, God is not. When we pray that way…a fool, we are." When we have mentally prearranged a reverence for our our own will over God’s, then, in our life, we have tried to unseat God from His throne.
The power in our life is grounded in the perfect will of Almighty God, and keeping Him firmly seated on the throne of our ultimate desire. If we want to see the answered prayers take off, then we should evaluate the way we’re praying. A great deal of the issues that we pray about in our life arise as a manifestation of our profound misalignment with God's will. It’s like driving in a car with a tire that is out of balance; the ride can get rough…noticeably rough. If we pray for our desires, our way, and in our time, then we should be aware that we may actually be praying for that misalignment to continue. If that’s our real motive behind our communication with Almighty God, then we should possibly put on a helmet for the duration of our trip, because the rough and tumbled ride wil most assuredly continue. Of course, God won't answer our misaligned prayers, and we need to understand why. It is not God's desire that "our will" be done. It is His desire that "His will be done." And so, that is what will be. Not only is it pleasing to Him, but, even if we don't understand it at the time, His will is perfect for us. It will fit us like a glove...that is, once we decide to try it on for size.
God offers the solution to our mindset of prayer in the book of Matthew, specifically in Matthew 6:9-10 which says, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’” This is an example, from the very outset of our prayer, that we have already surrendered our will, and we are purposed that His will be done, on earth, and in our own will and circumstances, as it is in Heaven. But, let's be sure to understand that those words, "Your will be done," must be more than, well...more than just words. There must be a deliberate foundation of surrender to those words. If not, we're just recklessely trying to fool a God who cannot be fooled. It may sound good in the prayer, but if it's spoken with insincerity, then let's understand that it's a practice in worthlessness.
We should certainly pray diligently for what is on our heart, but we should pray with a purposed expectation that God will help us see what His perfect will actually is in our situation. We should pray that God would help us to align our desires and expectations with the perfection that is only found in Him…even when we're failing to see beyond the great wall of our own desires and opinions.
Prayer is powerful communication with God, paid for and made possible by the innocent blood of our Redeemer, and it's more effective when that communication isn't one-sided. Be prepared to ask in faith, be prepared to submit to His will, and be prepared to listen for the perfection of God’s response, as He attempts to educate and align us with His will. We should never go to God with our hand out, unless our heart is in it.
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Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!