Have you ever come to a place in your life that you need to start over? That’s how I have been feeling lately in regards to prayer. I have always been a staunch believer in prayer and make prayer part of my daily routine. But, maybe that’s the first mistake, that I see prayer as part of a routine. Ruth and I pray every morning for a number of individuals and situations in the world. At night I say my prayers if I’m not too tired or fall asleep in the midst of them.
I am not trying to beat myself up or anyone else through this post, it just seems that prayer is something we all believe in, but we go about it haphazardly. For example, besides falling asleep, I find my mind wanders, and my prayers can easily turn into a checklist of things I would like God to do to make my life easier.
Does God still hear us when we stumble through the routine of prayer and fall into some of the pitfalls I’ve just mentioned? Yes, absolutely. God is faithful and loves to hear our prayers. Here’s the rub for me; I would love to have a deeper connection to God and form my prayers around His will and not my own.
In Matthew chapter six we read Jesus instructions to the disciples on how they are to pray. Jesus tells them, “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.” VV. 9, 10 Did you notice that this first part of the Lord’s Prayer is all about God? Jesus says, “holy be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done,” Our prayers and worship are directed towards God, because it is His will that is to be done on this earth just like it is His will that is done in Heaven.
I find that in the way I pray I must think that God doesn’t understand or know about the situation or person that I am praying about. It’s as if I’m saying, “God here is a person that really needs you, so just in case you’ve forgotten about her please help her.” But, that’s a simplistic and silly way of approaching God. Do I really think God has forgotten about someone, whom He died for, or God doesn’t have a plan for that person’s life, or God needs my ideas on how to reach that person or help them? I’m beginning to understand that prayer isn’t reminding God of who needs aide and comfort, but instead, asking God how I can fit into His will regarding the person I pray for.
When I pray I am trying to take the Lord’s Prayer seriously and wait on God to direct me in how to better carry out God’s will. I’m finding that as I try to mold my praying around God’s will I’m becoming more pro-active regarding people I pray for. I’m also learning that God is way ahead of me in His ministry to people and He really doesn’t need me to find all the solutions to my prayers. A few days ago I was talking to a friend about a lady that I have been praying for, but I never seem to have the opportunity to speak to her about spiritual things. As I’m lamenting this fact, my friend says, “oh I was talking to her husband the other night, and we had a good talk.” So, I’m not only learning to be faithful in prayer and seek God’s will, but I’m learning just how big God is in regards to me.
It is only after the disciples learned to put worship, trust, and hope in God that Jesus teaches them to present their own needs to God. “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.” Matt. 6:11-13
God wants us to bring our personal needs and our problems to Him because He is more than willing to help us. But, we need to remember that His will is to be done in regards to prayer. We often want God to answer our prayer right now and exactly as we want them answered. God, on the other hand, knows what is best and He sees the big picture and how things will work out. We should come to God asking “your will be done” and listen for God’s directions on how He will carry out His will. Our prayer life will grow rich if we stop making demands on God and start trusting that He loves us unconditionally and wishes only the best for us. He will answer our prayers, but they must be in harmony with His will.
Lastly, we shouldn’t confuse our wants with how God answers prayers. You may pray till the cows come home to win the lottery, but God’s will is that we rely upon Him for our daily bread. Our greed and desire for more things to make us happy is not always in harmony with what God wants for our lives. Prayer teaches us that all that we are all that we have, and all that we will be revolves around the love and grace of God. Through prayer we learn to trust in the bigness of God that works all things out for good regardless of how difficult it is for us to see.
God is always there through the storms of life and sometimes we can’t understand why we don’t have the answers to our prayers that we feel we need and desire. But we are on God’s timetable and He does know what is best so we pray, “your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven,” and leave it all in the hands of God. If He wishes to use us then He will make it known, but let Him lead and don’t run ahead of God because we don’t know the path.