I’m still perfecting the art and science of prayer. I don’t think I’ll ever arrive at complete achievement this side of heaven.
But here’s what I find. When I work on prayer, giving it time, attention and practice, practice, practice—I get a little better at it.
So here’s something I studied today that really helps me, and maybe it can help you, too.
Balanced prayers include both my will and God’s will. My desires and God’s desires. My plans and purposes. God’s plans and purposes.
The Psalms are packed with prayers of believers pleading with God and pouring out their hearts’ desires. Abraham dickered with God to spare the wicked city of Sodom. Hannah constantly asked God to give her a child. People begged Jesus for healing.
All of these prayers—where people sought their own desires—were acceptable to and answered by God. Don’t be so bashful when you pray. Boldly ask God like children boldly ask their parents.
As children mature, however, they learn not to ask their parents for the moon, or to stay home from school on an otherwise normal Thursday.
Jesus once promised, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). See the two wills at work, the two desires and dreams coming together? Yours and God’s? 1) Ask anything, 2) in Jesus’ name.
Jesus teaches us to pray for things that fulfill both our own will and also God’s will, our desires and God’s desires.
How do we know what God’s will is? What he desires? We don’t always know. But we do have plenty of material to work with in God’s Word—the Bible. This is the book of God, in his name.
So instead of praying by running down the list of things you want, pause and reflect on what you want in light of everything you know from the Bible about those things. Do they delight God or grieve God?
Consider what your request looks like within the plan of how salvation works and how God’s grace saves you from your sins, and strengthens you to serve.
Compare the smallness or bigness of your prayer to the smallness or bigness of God’s promises already stated in Scripture—to you need to up the stakes a bit?
So, be patient with yourself. Take the long, hard road of matching as best possible your will with God’s will. You won’t always get it right, but sometimes you’ll be close, or other times God will sigh and laugh and mercifully teach you a lesson.
Through it all, you’ll improve at prayer. You’ll get better at communicating with God. And you’ll both be happier.
PRAYER: Dear God, you are so patient with me in my prayers. Help me be just as patient with myself, and to not give up praying when it is hard. Make me bold to ask for what I want, and also believing in what you want. Amen.
FURTHER MEDITATION: Read James 1:2-6. With what words does this Word of God encourage you to be more bold in asking for what you want? With what words does this Word of God encourage you to learn and lean into God’s will?