I wonder how many of us keep a prayer journal, jotting down requests of family and friends. Recently, I was challenged to consider my purpose in doing so. Did it merely serve as a reminder to me for the needs of others? Was it my way of keeping tabs on the effectiveness of my prayers? Or was I guilty of making a “to-do” list for God?
As I sat and considered my perspective on prayer, it was obvious that often my mindset was ordering God around. I was telling Him how I wanted things done. And waiting on God to perform. Sometimes, God would answer my prayers according to my plan. Sometimes, He would say no.
Naively, the context of my prayers was limited to a list for which I wanted answers.
You see, unknowingly, I had put limitations on God. My prayers consisted of me listing out my needs, rather than seeing God might have a better answer. I presented my request, and then would ask God to fill it. Like a pharmacy counter, I wanted my prescription filled exactly as I had ordered. Leaving Him no wiggle room. Asking He follow my directions.
Prayer is bigger than a list.
God is capable of doing far more abundantly than we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Why then, should we tell Him how? Maybe He has something much grander in mind. Maybe He has a greater purpose.
The problem with our prayer list is a matter of our perspective. We often measure the effectiveness of our prayer life based on whether or not our prayers were answered according to our liking. However, if God answers no, we stop and reconsider: Am I doing something wrong? Do I need to pray harder? There must be a magical formula to this thing called prayer.
Prayer should not be something that we measure. As a believer, we are called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). It is not to be something we merely do…it is to be who we are. The practice of “saying prayers” should never become monotonous, routine, boring, crusty or old. Rather, we should view prayer as a constant and continuous conversation with God our Heavenly Father. Prayer is our way to know God more.
Prayer should become a way of life.
I now realize prayers are answered in the process. We should look at prayer with a fresh perspective. God is answering your prayers in each and every moment as you grow in intimacy with Him.
In the wrestling.
In the silence.
In the tantrum fits.
The answer to your prayer is more than a yes or a no; it is a process. Through prayer, we grow closer to God. That is the answer! We pray in order to know God and to know His will.
“Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24
One final thought: I still keep a prayer journal as a reminder to pray for family and friends. However, I no longer wonder if God will answer my prayer. Instead, I ask for my eyes to be opened to see how He answers and for my heart to be ready to receive. Sometimes God answers immediately. Other answers take awhile to see. Some answers are difficult to accept. Some answers are a welcome relief. On this side of eternity, I may not always understand. But for now, I will choose to trust in Jesus, who always has higher thoughts than mine.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
How has prayer changed you?