In conversation about prayers, we sometimes hear, “God answered my prayer…” or, “God didn’t answer my prayer…” depending on what the outcome was.
God delights in prayer, God answers prayer – always. He answers in the blessing of communing with your heart. He answers in the blessing of drawing you closer to Him (James 4.8 Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you…). He answers with the blessing of peace in your soul, comfort from knowing it all rests in His loving, intelligent, merciful design.
And when you pray…
Jesus gave us the gift of His pattern of prayer in Matthew 6:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
In Jesus’ prayer, He does not mention asking for a list of what we’d like to see happen. Jesus’ prayer is about giving God glory, acknowledging Him as our holy King, asking for our needs (as He sees them) to be met, and asking forgiveness and protection. He ends with, again, acknowledging God’s sovereignty, power and glory.
As you pray, set your mind on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3.2).
Are we allowed to ask for stuff? Absolutely! If a friend is sick, we can ask for God to heal, and give the friend and doctors wisdom. But the bottom-line prayer is, “Thy will be done.” We can also pray that the friend receive God’s comfort and peace, and that the friend rests in the joy of knowing s/he is in the loving palm of God’s Hand.
We can always pray for salvation.
If someone is in danger of losing a job, we can pray God to intervene in the situation to either keep the job or that God will lead to another solution that none of us can think to imagine.
Maybe we are part of the solution.
I often pray, in supplication for others, for God to send good friends for support and comfort. Often God calls me to be that friend. Sometimes it’s not me.
As we pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5.17), we talk to God throughout our day. I may be looking for an item, and ask God to show me where it is. Yes, we can pray for big things and small. Life and death; keys and schedules.
What do we think prayer is?
Do not fall into the sin of believing that “God answered my prayer” is the same as “I got what I wanted.”
In speaking of our answered prayers, we can say things like:
“God answered my prayer. My cancer returned.”
“God answered my prayer. My friend died.”
“God answered my prayer. He said No to a new car for now.”
“God answered my prayer. A blizzard came in, and we couldn’t visit our family.”
All of these are answers to prayer. God gives us exactly what we need, when we need it. Thank Him.
James 4.3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
We are not called on, anywhere in God’s Word, to pray for our selfish wants. Yes, someone may want a new house or to win the lottery or to get a promotion. I think God wants to settle matters of the heart / soul / spirit first. He may answer with a No if your wish does not give Him glory, or if it would ultimately be to your detriment. When we pray and wish for things, we can only see a short-range, fuzzy picture of how things might turn out if it comes true (some of us have very active imaginations!). God sees the bigger, more perfect picture: He knows the future, He knows our hearts, He knows what is best for each of us, He knows what will bring us blessing, and He knows what will bring Him glory.
Consider prayer in James 5.14 – 16: Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
The Greek word used for “save” in verse 15 has the meaning “to save, i.e. Deliver or protect.” This does not necessarily mean the sick person is given bodily health. I believe God is interested in the spirit and soul more than the body. The prayer of faith shall save the sick. We pray in faith for salvation, salvation of our eternal souls. That soul shall God raise up, either to continue blessing those of this world (in sickness or in health); or raise up to eternity to be with Him. And, if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him!!! Oh, glorious Lord!
God’s Word contains perfect prayers. Here are a few that we can pray for ourselves and others:
Hebrews 12.20, 21 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Ephesians 1.16 – 19 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.
Ephesians 3.16 – 19 I ask that out of the riches of His glory He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. Then you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 will have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth 19 of the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
And this great prayer from Revelation 7.12 Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever! Amen.
May God bless you richly in your prayers.