When I pray…
When I pray… what do I need to do to connect with God, and understand him better?
We all know how it goes – when you need something, you ask God for it. How do you ask or how do you pray? Let me describe some common prayers that we are all guilty of.
“Lord, you know how much I need this job, right? I promise that if you give it to me, I will praise you for the rest of my days, and I will never forget what you have done for me!”
“Lord, I need this opportunity to come through right now. Did you hear me? Right now! If you don’t’ give it to me I will stop believing in you.” (Do not roll your eyes at me; every one of us has prayed this prayer at some point!)
“Lord, you see that guy over there? I know that he is the one you have prepared for me. I know with all my heart that it is your will that I marry him!”
What is the unifying thread in the prayers above? Well, none of them gives God a chance to speak, to work out his perfect will, or to say no! Is that really how we should pray?
Let me share what I have learnt (and am still learning) about prayer.
I need to give God time to speak
Sometimes the urgency of prayer causes us to forget that the one to whom we are praying may actually have an opinion about the situation!
In the Old Testament, Samuel, just after going to live in the temple, heard a voice speaking to him. He did not know whose voice it was, so he kept going to Eli the prophet to ask why he was calling him. After going to the prophet three times, it hit Eli that the Lord was the one calling Samuel. Eli then told the young man what to do, as seen in the verses below.
1 Samuel 3:8-10 “A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (NIV)
If Samuel had not followed Eli’s instructions and taken time to listen to God, he would never have known what God wanted to say to him at that moment.
Friends, this may seem to be a basic lesson for all of us, but the truth is, God is always ready to speak to us, instructing and guiding us on what to do, where to go, etc. The best time to hear his voice is when you are quietly meditating on him and his word while seeking his face in prayer.
When we pray, therefore, we need to take a moment or two to listen to what God is saying, rather than bombard him with a battery of requests before we rush off. Imagine how many problems would be solved if we took the time to listen to God!
I need to be ready to accept God’s answers
Back to the bombarding – how many times do we ‘land’ in God’s presence with a thud, armed with a list of demands? I suspect that if God were human, he would shudder at the thought of what the list contains, and the expectations that lie behind each of them! Thankfully, however, God is not at all like that; rather, he longs to hear us ask for his help, intervention, provision, and comfort!
The question is – how many of us are ready to accept the answers that God gives us when we pray? What happens when he decides the answer is not yes, but no, or wait?
Faced with death on the cross, and the pain that accompanied it, Jesus said the following prayer.
Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (NLT)
Check out the same verse in another version…
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (NIV)
I had to stop for a moment at this point to think about these words – not my will, but yours be done (I want your will to be done, not mine). Is this really how I pray? Am I always ready to accept God’s will? Does this mean that when I pray, I should be ready to accept what God’s answer is, even if it does not go with what I want?
Friends, remember that God is love, and all that he does is out of love for us because he treats us like his children. He will not readily lead us into situations that will cause us harm and drive us far away from him. If we truly submit to him, ready to accept his perfect will, he will, in turn, give us the answers that are RIGHT and BEST for us.
Submission to God’s will in prayer is a major learning point for me. Sometimes God will answer my prayers, but add a little ‘no’ inside the ‘yes’. Other times, he will answer with an outright ‘no’, or just go silent. Learning to trust that God’s perfect will for me is better than all the grand plans I present to him in prayer is definitely something I am still learning.
In conclusion, let me say that although learning to listen to God and learning to accept his will may be a challenge, God graciously gives us the time and space we need to learn to commune with him and seek his face. Learning to pray takes time, but the end result is the ultimate reward – close fellowship with Christ.
Psalm 141:2 “May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.” (NIV)
Hi, everyone! Thank you for reading through, and sharing in what I have learnt about prayer over the years. Would you like to share your thoughts on prayer? Please do so in the comment box below. Also, don’t forget to share this article with your friends. Have a great week ahead!