Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints
Ephesians 6:18 ESV
The Bible has a lot to say about prayer. Clearly, it is important. We are told to build a relationship with God through prayer.
Can I be honest? I still don’t really understand how prayer works.
Rest assured, I do pray. Often. If I tell you I’m going to pray about something for you, I do. Most of the time I do it right then. I know that prayer is powerful and I know that it is a privilege to bring others before the throne of grace. At the same time, I have a very complicated view of prayer. I have seen God do amazing, inexpiable things. I have seen prayers go unanswered. And I have felt crushed when the exact opposite of my prayer becomes reality.
Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
Verses like this one are really difficult for me. I completely understand that if I’m praying for a million dollars, or even just to have an easy and happy life, that prayer may not align with God’s purposes and plan for my life. That part is easy. God never promises to make life easy, happy, or financially prosperous. What about when we are praying according to what God’s Word says, according to God’s will, and the prayer is still not answered? Or, it is answered, but the answer is ‘no’? How do we reconcile those “no” answers with verses like John 14:13?
Honestly, for a while, my prayers were so consistently being answered completely opposite of my desire that I was afraid to pray for anything. It felt like God was waiting for me to express my desire so He would know what not to do. I remember asking several people in my life – what am I doing wrong here? Am I not praying hard enough? More specifically, I asked – How can divorce be God’s will? Why does it seem like God is rewarding sin and punishing faithfulness?
At the worst moments, I stopped praying altogether, convinced that it didn’t make a difference anyway. Everyone else seemed to have a different relationship with God than I did, because they received what they asked for while my situation steadily got worse.
We have to remember that prayer is first and foremost about our relationship with God, not about our circumstances. While God is concerned with our situations, He is more concerned with us growing closer to Him. Second, we have to remember that part of God’s will is for us to have the freedom to choose. I can pray for someone to change direction. I can pray for someone to come to faith, or return to faith. Ultimately, it is their choice, though, and God’s will is for them to make the choice freely.
At this time last year, I was praying three very specific things. The first item on my list was for my husband to repent and return to our marriage. The other two things, though not relating to him specifically, were connected to that event in my mind. He did not repent or return, so my prayer was answered “no”. But, I had prayed with complete faith. I had prayed according to God’s word and will. The answer that came had nothing to do with my faith or prayer, but instead related to his freedom to choose.
Now, I am seeing how God is still working on the two areas that were not directly related to his choice. I can see how my picture of what should happen, and what order it should happen, was too small and limited. God is expanding my view of how He works, and using my circumstances to reveal more about His character.
I still don’t fully understand prayer, but I do know that the core of prayer is not our desires, but our relationship with God. That’s why we pray.