The Angst of Prayer

There is no greater privilege in the Christian life than the privilege of prayer. It’s mind-blowing to realize that not only CAN we bring requests to God, but we are COMMANDED (Phil. 4:6) to…and told to do it BOLDLY (Heb. 4:16)! Amazing! After all HE is a holy, infinite God, and WE are sinful, finite men. HE knows the beginning from the end and judges it all in perfect holiness. WE barely know what’s going on in right in front of us, and our judgements are often silly and sometimes sinful. And yet, considering all that, He still asks us to pray.

In addition, God has blown me away by the power of prayer. There is plenty of support in the Bible to support that statement, but for me it’s also been very personal. In fact, I would like to share several stories, but I do this with some hesitancy. Please understand that my intention is to give God all the glory for how He has answered prayer in my life. I can take no credit as I simply asked and it was God Who showed His power in the answers. Pretending I had much at all do with this answered prayer would be like an Apple Store customer taking credit for the iPad2. He simply asked and the wonderful, amazing device was delivered! Unless the store was out of stock…ok, bad illustration. But at least I got to mention the iPad2…and it is AMAZING…but that’s another blog (no I didn’t get one 😦 ). Back to personal prayer!

Here are a couple of examples of how God answered some of my prayer requests: Years ago, I prayed for a truck. I was doing some remodeling and needed something more than my hatch-back Honda Civic to haul my hardware. A few weeks after I started praying, someone GAVE me a Nissan 4X4 pickup “out of the blue.” Did you get that…they GAVE it to me…for FREE! Without question, God answered my prayer!! A few months back I started praying for the Logos Bible Software as it was a key part of my move to the iPad. A few weeks after I started praying, I won a copy of Logos Scholars Library in a blog contest!! How does that happen?!? Again, God heard my cry and answered my prayer! Between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I needed $971 dollars to pay off my bill in order to return to school. God miraculously provided $971.25. I had a quarter to spare so I could keep my checking account open! These are just a couple examples of many! Please understand that there are some prayers that God did not give me what I requested and there are some requests that I am STILL bringing to God. But I have seen first hand how our prayers can move the hand of God!

But prayer is not always…easy. There is a struggle of the will that is inherent to the practice of prayer. Here’s what I mean. I want something, but is it OK to pray about our wants? What if God doesn’t want that for us? Should we always just pray “your will be done” and never bring personal requests to God? Then there is the struggle of faith that happens as well. Where does faith come in? Will God ALWAYS answer a prayer as long as I believe He will without doubting? Is it possible that God would not answer my prayer because I lacked faith? I WANT to have faith, but there is this lingering doubt that this request may not be a part of His plan! How does this all play out in my “rubber meets the road” prayer life?

God has taught me a few things lately that I would like to share. In His good and sovereign plan, He has me in a season where I am experiencing this very angst in my prayer life! For the last several months I have been crying out to God for something that I believe would have brought Him glory. In fact, had this come about as I prayed several of my prayer requests could have been crossed off my prayer journal! I prayed with more passion and persistence for this than I have anything else I can remember. However, even with all the persistence, passion, and pleading, God said “No” to my request. It was hard to understand and hard to accept. I hate to admit that it’s been a bit of a struggle. But my God is a God who “works all things together” for “my good” (Rom. 8:28). He wants me to live for His glory and He’s conforming me to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). I need to pray like Jesus did and I needed this lesson to teach me how. Here’s what I learned.

Our prayer lives should include two key elements:

1. Passionate Supplications
We are ask God for things in prayer and we are to ask with faith, persistence, and passion. There are multiple examples of this in God’s Word. Paul instructed the church in Philippi to bring requests to God.

Phil. 4:6
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

In fact, James says one of the reasons why we don’t receive the things we want is because we fail to ask for them!

James 4:2b-3
2b You do not have, because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

We have to remember that we have a God Who wants to give us good things and He wants us to ask for them!

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Matt. 7:11
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

And we are to ask for those things believing God hears and will answer our prayer. We are to pray with faith!!

James 1:6
But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

Further, Jesus clearly taught that we are to pray with persistence. Luke tells this story in his gospel;

Luke 18:1
And he (Jesus) told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.

Jesus then goes on to tell them a parable of a widow to asked for justice over and over again until the unjust judge granted her request! We are to pray and pray and pray…and not lose heart.

We are to pray for what we want understanding God wants us to have good things. We are to pray with faith and with persistence! This is clear in God’s word. Yet there is a VITAL perspective that must guide our prayer life.

2. Perfect Submission
Even though we certainly have personal requests, there is to be one overriding desire that drives our hearts…God’s glory! Living for Him and for His pleasure is to be the aim of our lives (2 Cor. 5:9). So how does that fit in with our “wants”…our hearts desires? David answers this well in Psalm 37.

Ps. 37:4-5
4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.

We delight ourselves in the LORD! We submit ourselves to living for His glory and we commit our way HIM. And He GIVES us the desires of our hearts. I believe this is a two edged sword. On the one hand, He PUTS the right desires in our hearts! When we are delighting ourselves in Him living for HIS pleasure, we will want what He wants. Then, He grants those desires. Before we begin to bring our wants before His throne, we must first delight in Him and commit our way to Him. LOVE Him…and LOVE living for His glory!

James not only tells us to pray for our wants with faith, but the wise pastor and apostle also cautioned us with this:

James 4:13-15
13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”-
14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.
15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Along with our prayers, there is the underlying desire to do God’s will and not ours!

Summary: The Example of Jesus
We see the perfect example of prayer in the life of Jesus. There is no question that He prayed with passion in the garden.

Mark 14:35-36
35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me…”

And He prayed with persistence.

Mark 14:39
And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.

In fact, so passionate was His prayer, it had physical effects on His body! He sweat blood and angels had to minister to Him!

And yet, through it all, He remained in perfect submission. Over and over He prayed, “Not my will but yours be done.” He had a desire for the cup of wrath to pass from Him, but more than anything, He was submitted to Father’s will!

What a perfect example for us! Pray…pray with all your heart and pray hard! But more than anything else, live committed and submitted to the pleasure of the Father.

For me, a mentor helped me see that not only did I want the mountain to move, I was telling God HOW to move the mountain! I wanted His glory, but I wanted it MY way. I needed to pray more like Jesus and the Father loved me enough to deny my request to bring me to a more perfect submission to Him. The fact that I struggled so much with His answer showed me that my heart was not fully committed to His will. Though it’s certainly not easy, I praise God for this lesson and I hope my prayer life will be forever changed. I will continue to pray with passion and heart, but I hope no desire becomes more important than HIS glory displayed most perfectly in HIS will.

Respond
What have you learned through prayer? How is God growing you? Let’s heart about in the comments.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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3 thoughts on “The Angst of Prayer

  1. Persistant, consistant prayer has long been a struggle in my walk with Christ. I am a self-starter, a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of guy. I didn’t pray often because I simply “didn’t need to pray” for my needs, I simply provided for them through my own means with no reliance on Christ. How wrong I have been!

    But the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, they say. My wife and I began notice a lack of desire for prayerfulness in our oldest son. When his siblings would literally fight over who got to pray at dinner, we would have to fight with him when he was asked to pray. Confession over sin was an ordeal, and requests were limited to “I hope we have a good day”. I began to realize my struggle over consistant prayer had spilled into my son’s life. I had passed on the tragic habit of self-reliance!

    So a few months ago, he and I began a study on prayer together. I started it with him in hopes of turning his attention toward God but found my own heart was in desperate need as well. What a change has come into my life! What started as “project” to teach my son how to pray has morphed into a challenge for me to be more consistant with my own communication with God. I’m still not perfect, but I’m beginning to redeem the normally wasted moments of my life with earnest conversations with my Father. The commute to work, laying awake in bed at night, even my morning shower have turned into opportunities to take my cares and anxieties before His throne. Praise be to God for the wonderful priviledge of being able to take our worries to Him! We are unworthy, but He is all-loving. What a great God we serve!

  2. Awesome, Brian! Thanks for the open and honest post. Your son will probably remember this for the rest of his life! Your desire to please God through your prayer life and in your parenting will have eternal impacts! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I have read and re-read your story on the Angst of Prayer along with your personal examples. I too like Brian struggle in my walk with Christ. I believe and love the Lord. I want to believe that I trust in the Lord. I feel sometimes that I really don’t know how to Pray….I don’t want to feel phony or appear phony….I want to truly know that what I pray and feel is all for God’s glory. I see your scripture on James 4:3, I guess that’s how I feel….maybe what I ask for, I ask “wrongly”. How do I know? What can I do? I start out feeling on top of the world for Jesus only to later find myself hiding inside of myself and avoiding that feeling. I pray that you can show me/help me to find whatever it is that I am missing. I need God. I need Prayer.

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