We pray and nothing happens. Sometimes it gets worse. We bring our full heart and good intentions to the issue and find ourselves getting shut down. Is God hearing it wrong, or is He hearing it at all? ♦
We pray for our health, our job, our family, our friends, our money. If we’re “a good Christian” we pray for other people and their health, job, family, friends, and money. We pray against bad things happening to us like getting robbed by bad guys, or traffic accidents, or being impacted by violent weather storms, or ironically, other natural acts of God.
We think we got it covered and believe and hope that God hears us and delivers on our requests.
Then the hammer hits and we lose our health, our job, our family, our friends, and our money, either some or most of it. Or we hear that our friends lost their health, job, family, etc.
You get the picture.
It’s enough to take the luster off this whole God-thing. Either He comes through or He doesn’t. Sometimes we get a taste of the sublime; most times it seems that it’s all a big tease and a shot in the dark. While the romantic in us may agree with the 1960’s song that Love is a Many Splendored Thing, the pragmatic well-intentioned Christian may become disillusioned with prayer or at least agree that Prayer is a Very Confusing Thing!
What Did Jesus Do?
Jesus prayed. All the time. Constantly and before He took action on everyday matters he rose early and found secluded places (Matthew 14:22-23, Mark 1:35, Luke 5:15-16, 6:12 to cite a few verses.) You can bet that these were not petitioning prayers requesting comforts and privilege; but rather alignment with the will of God the Father.
In a sense He was seeking His daily marching orders. He followed directions and stayed obedient unto death, which was the mission. As fully human, fully God, he modeled the life of a perfectly obedient, direction-following human.
What Did Paul Do?
While Jesus was perfect in all aspects of human behavior and a lifelong walk with God the Father, Paul by contrast is an amazing role model of one far-fallen who was transformed to a mighty model of Christ-likeness and Spirit-led living. Paul’s conversion experience (see Acts 9:1-19) changed him permanently. He never wavered from that moment on the ground he literally “saw the light.” Paul’s letters in the New Testament overflow with unbridled love and graciousness for his target audience, praying unceasingly and expectantly for the full outpouring of God’s grace and spirit. He sought not just salvation but for the power of heaven through intercessory prayer to transform the hearts and minds of his converts in Christ Jesus. (Acts 9:11, 1 Corinthians 1:4-5, Colossians 1:3-9.)
He prays constantly and with authority and power. There is no self-seeking grandeur or personal benefit, but rather realistic self-awareness of God’s transforming power on he himself, a worthy example to emulate and copy. (1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1, Philippians 3:17.)
Additionally Paul requests prayer. Why? Because he knows that the Holy Spirit is a supernatural gift that entered the physical world from heavenly places. He knows the life of the Christian saint here on earth is empowered with grace and power only when engaged with consistent connection to that heavenly source through the spiritual communication vehicle of prayer.
What Should We Do?
Keep it simple. Be like Jesus and Paul with 4 steps to move toward a fully submissive, headlong dive into a deeper life of prayer:
- Submit Your Requests. It’s okay to make your requests known to God. Yes, it’s fair game to lay it all out there and state your desires. Find a quiet place and have a frank discussion with your Creator. He already knows your requests by the way, but there’s intimacy in the relational sharing. Real maturity comes when you recognize that your heart/prayer requests are less and less about you and your plans, but your daily requests come with a totally submissive heart to Him and His plans. That’s when you become truly free, with confidence, and you become truly productive for the Kingdom, and a hurting world.
- Acknowledge God’s Will. Now truly give it up to God and let Him play it out as He would want. Be totally at peace with that (“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…”) You do not want a plan/path that is not endorsed by Almighty God. That would be like owning an unofficial World Series Championship T-shirt: it may look alright at first blush, but it’s a counterfeit that will unravel and fade away at some point sooner than you would desire. God’s plan is always the better plan. For you too, believe it or not.
- Wait, Look and Listen. Now be very observant and discerning. Look for open and shut doors or windows. God does speak and move in mysterious ways, tangible and intangible. Don’t bet on one or the other, but rather become a student of His inner voice in your head through ideas, his Word, fleeting thoughts, names, pictures, words, recurring themes or phrases or situations. Be perceptive, not blind. I get glimpses and names in my head of people to pursue or engage. I realize God’s been trying to get my attention for a long time – but I wasn’t always listening or dialed in. I am now – it’s clearly the better way to go, and live.
- Live Graciously and Gratefully. Life is short. We’re not here to win the Lotto or build the house on the hill. Nice if it works out that way; bummer if that’s all you’ve got to show for it. Our lives are each purposeful, designed for good and to bring glory to our Creator. That shift in mindset will bring tremendous freedom and joy as you uncover His purpose for you; a purpose that utilizes your own unique wiring for what God can graciously ordain for something very special, because it’s of Him through you, not of our own selfish tinkering. You’ll spend the rest of your life thanking Him.
We have the models in both Jesus and Paul to rightfully view prayer and engage effectively, for His purposes and ours. With this perspective watch the way your prayer life will change you and your prayers for others.
Do you understand prayer now?
I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge. – 1 Corinthians 1:4-5