When my 9-year-old granddaughter Ainsleigh heard that Aunt Kathy was not expected to live, she came to her mother Hope and asked, “I want to talk to you, but not as my mother. I want to talk to you as a Christian. I have a serious question.”
Hope held her breath and encouraged her to continue.
“Can I pray for Aunt Kathy the way I want to pray? I don’t want her to die. She still has more to do. She promised to come to AZ to teach me art. I want to pray that she gets better.”
How do you respond? Do you let her know that prayer does not always work out the way that we want it to? Do you tell her to pray in faith and God will do whatever she asks? Do you tell her that she can’t pray that way since it is selfishly motivated? Are you tempted to prepare her for disappointment in case the worst happens and Aunt Kathy dies anyway?
As I mentioned in my recent note, our normal philosophy when thinking of prayer is that it “worked” when we get our desired outcome. But what is the work of prayer? And what is OK when we pray?
The Work of Prayer — God is not a vending machine that if we put in the right amount and push the right buttons and have enough faith, out pops the right result. When we study the Gospel, it is very complex. Jesus often told people that they would receive healing because of their faith. But many times people were healed who had no faith and made no requests. In all of these situations, the common denominator was that they grew in their faith, their knowledge of Christ, and their relationship with Jesus. These are the continued outcomes when we wrestle with God in prayer, trusting Him to be God and giving thanks in all circumstances.
Prayer is Relationship — Therefore the work of prayer is not only in the asking but in the listening. We meet the Lord Jesus in our times of desperate prayer. Our prayers “are answered” as we go, as we seek Him, as we humble ourselves before our sovereign God. Our hearts are deepened in the midst of the trial and the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.
What is OK when we pray? Many times people constantly self correct when they pray, trying to adopt the right posture before God. Perhaps they were brimming with anger before they stopped to pray. But then they cleaned up their thoughts, “I can’t think like that when I come to God. He won’t listen to me.” They then prayed a sanitized version of what they were thinking and feeling.
Do we think God is fooled by this? Doesn’t God know the anger, even the rage, with which we wrestle? Look at Job. He ranted and raved through most of the book, but God said Job spoke of Him “what is right.” (!) Job prayed in the integrity of his heart. He expressed that he thought he was getting a raw deal. In the end, after seeing great glories of God, he repented in dust and ashes. In your prayers, be real even raw, but in the end come back to what you know is true. God alone knows what is best. God loves you. God is at work.
Books have been written on prayer that cover the complexities much better than I am doing. But remember, prayer is a relationship with a living God. It is a time to throw ourselves before Him. Jesus encourages us to have confidence in prayer. He encourages us to make even the smallest of requests. And then He invites us to pray as He did when His own heart was breaking in the Garden of Gethsemane. He laid out His request. He asked for His own desire in the face of God’s better plan. But then, in His humanity, Jesus surrendered, “not my will but Thine be done.”
We need not fear or be anxious. We bring our requests to Him with thanksgiving, believing that God has a good plan in the midst of my pain. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Your fellow servant-warrior, Christopher
P. S. We encouraged Ainsleigh to pray as she felt that the Spirit was leading her. Perhaps God used that child-like, stubborn faith-filled prayer to bring Kathy back to us?