For the last several weeks, I have been on a prayer journey. There was something going on in the life of someone near and dear to me, and I was committed to praying for them every day.
I confess I am not a prayer warrior. I might be motivated, but I am also easily distracted, and my mind wanders down some pretty long and winding roads before I remember I was supposed to be praying.
True prayer warriors lose all track of time and can pray literally for hours without ceasing and, apparently, without getting distracted. I pray in bursts throughout my day. I usually end my daily Bible reading with actual beginning-to-end prayers. The rest of the time, I just talk to God while I’m washing dishes or folding laundry. I am most focused in prayer on my daily walks. I am a prayer walker.
So I was praying about this situation all through my days and nights, and after two or three weeks of this, I finally came to a place of peace about the problem even though nothing had changed. In fact, it might actually have gotten worse.
So how did I get from panic to peace, from crisis to calm, from fear to faith?
Yeah, let’s talk about that because prayer can be a process. We go through stages; at least, I do.
The first step in the process was, of course, identifying that I was deeply disturbed about this problem. It was an emotional crisis for me. That naturally led to the next stage, which I call “ the worst-case scenario “ stage. My mind went wild imagining the worst things that could possibly happen and all the terrible consequences if something drastic did not occur to change it. That kind of thinking definitely ushers in fear and panic!
Even people who don’t often pray will jump from panic to prayer. I needed to pray! I needed a miracle, a mighty move of God! Only God could fix this and prevent this horrible scenario from unfolding before my very eyes! Yep, panic.
This is where prayer gets sticky, and I use the word “sticky” because it is where many of our prayers get stuck.
We not only imagine and replay over and over the terrible potential consequences, but we start telling God what has to happen to fix it. We start telling God what to do. We want God to fix it the way we think it should be fixed, what we believe is the best outcome. Then that becomes our expectation. We know God can do anything, and this is what we want God to do.
Sadly, if we remain in this stage for very long, we can lose hope and even lose faith when God does not do what we want him to do, the way we want him to do it, and when we want him to do it. We begin to think God has either not heard us or chosen not to help us.
While on my morning walk, I started my usual prayer, telling God about it all over again, and I thought God must get tired of hearing me say this same prayer over and over.
That’s when I remembered the story from Luke 18 about the widow who kept demanding justice from the cold-hearted judge. He finally gave her the justice she wanted, not because he cared, but so she would quit pestering him.
I had to get out my Bible, read that story again, and dig deeper. It might seem like persistence in prayer is the lesson here. It’s not. The moral of the story is if an evil, mean-spirited, worldly judge would relent and show mercy, how much more will we receive mercy from our compassionate, loving God?
We don’t have to nag God. I was harping on the same complaint and making the same requests over and over, telling God what needed to happen here. God heard me the first time. Repeating the same prayer over and over can be tedious for God and for us. So how do we “pray without ceasing” if we don’t need to keep reminding God of our need?
God took me to Luke 12, verses 13-14. Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?”
Apparently, his older brother was unwilling to share an inheritance with him, and this guy wanted Jesus to fix it. Jesus said no. For one thing, the eldest son always inherited from the father. It was his right and his choice whether to share it or not. God might want the brother to freely choose to do the right thing, but God never takes away another person’s free will to satisfy us. Any time you ask God to change someone else, alarm bells should go off in your spirit. You would be wiser to ask God to change you.
As with this man, rather than correcting the older brother, Jesus checks him, warning him about greed and focusing too much on worldly possessions.
Then he added this:
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’Luke 12:16-20 NIV
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
My prayer has nothing to do with greed but reading these stories reminded me that we think we know what to do, like this farmer. We think we know how best to handle a situation, good or bad when only God knows the future and the outcome of any person’s life.
We won’t get our prayers unstuck until we stop telling God what to do and how to do it.
When I looked at my dilemma from God’s point of view, it changed how I prayed. That was the turning point. That was the stage I needed to get to in order to escape from being stuck in the same repetitious prayers. I could stop telling God what to do and instead tell God how much I trusted him to do what was best for all involved.
I was still worried about the situation, but my prayers became a daily opportunity to tell God how much I trusted and loved him. I stood on the promises and scriptures that lined up my dilemma with what I believe is God’s will for me and for the situation I am concerned about. I am confident God knows far better than me how to resolve this.
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.Hebrews 4:16 NIV
Mercy and grace are all we need to pray for in any situation that troubles us. Now my daily prayers are songs of praise and anthems of love. I only ask that he direct my steps so that I would know when to speak and when to be silent, when to act and when to be still.
What has been the burden on your heart lately? If your prayers start sounding like a broken record, or you feel stuck in a hopeless situation, try to see the problem from God’s point of view. Are you asking God to change someone else to satisfy you? Are you asking God to reveal any false motives you might be harboring? Are you asking God to fix it your way, or are you trusting him to have his own way in you and in the situation?
Prayer can be a process that not only changes a situation but, more often, changes us and enables us to go from crisis to calm, from panic to peace, and most important, from fear to faith.
Why Doesn’t God Just Heal Me
If you like what you’ve seen here, please consider picking up a copy of my book
Why Doesn’t God Just Heal Me – available on Amazon.com
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Having endured an undiagnosed illness for thirty years, I prayed daily for healing and diligently searched the Bible to answer the questions we all ask when faith does not seem to be enough.
With a comprehensive and balanced application of scripture, I address the topic of healing and answer the questions that test our faith.