Prayer is an interesting thing. If you really think about it, it is a created being talking to The Creator. That makes it interesting enough, but what I find really interesting is what we pray for and how we pray. I find it interesting that people who are atheist or agnostic pray, (this always astounded me because how can you pray to something or someone you don’t believe or know exists?). I find it interesting that as Christians, we rarely follow Jesus’ teachings on prayer, (See Matthew 6:5-15, Luke 22:39-46 and John 17). But the most interesting thing to me is that after we pray, we do nothing.
Right now, all of us have things we are praying for. It could be a loved one’s health, a new job, guidance with the future or for an opportunity to share the Gospel. When we pray we are asking for God to move. But what if God is asking you to move? What if your prayer is the way God is trying to speak to you?
The problem we have today is that our prayers are filled with talking, but little listening. We have forgotten that prayer is not about me and telling God all my needs and wants, but is ultimately about God and having a closer relationship with Him. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” When we pray, the Spirit is at work and if we actually stop and listen for a minute, we may get some answers.
But we don’t listen. We go to God and tell Him what we think is best. We go and make suggestions as if God needs our help in ruling the universe. We act like a father telling our child what’s best. And this is the first mistake. When you pray, you need to think of it as if you are a child asking your Father for help or guidance. In humility, we need to learn to ask and thank our Father rather than try to direct.
And just like a Father will act, so does God. “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!” Matthew 7:11. So when we pray for something and God doesn’t do what we ask, is he being a bad Father? If every time I went to my Dad and told him I wanted candy for dinner, would he be a good Father if he gave it to me? Just as a Father will listen to His child but ultimately do what is best for his child, so God listens and ultimately does what is best for us, even if we see it differently.
And this brings me to the point of this whole post, (kind of a long introduction eh?). I believe that often, God wants us to be the answer to our own prayers. A good Father does not just do or give everything to his children, but rather instructs, encourages and provides the opportunities for them to do it for themselves. But for some reason, we have this strange idea that once we pray we are just to sit and wait for God to give us some sign.
Now I do want to clarify a few things. First, there are certain things that we need to lay down to God in prayer and not pick up again. If there is something you have no control over, (the weather, your loved one’s health, the stock market, etc…), and you are worried about it, you need to leave that with God and trust that He will do what is best. Secondly, I am not saying that we are the answer to our prayers. I believe I could do very little without the help of God, especially through prayer. I believe that we are tools and that God is ultimately the master Craftsman. We may be the tool that helps answer a prayer, but we must give all glory, praise and honor to the Craftsman, not the tool.
That being said, I believe we Christians have fallen short in our prayer lives, and this is evidenced by our lack of zeal, motivation and courage to help answer prayer. Let me give you an example. In Matthew 14:13-21, the disciples come to Jesus and ask Him to send the crowds away. This would be similar to us asking Jesus to take some burden away from us. Jesus doesn’t do what they ask though. Instead Jesus says, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:16. This doesn’t sound like an answer to pray. This doesn’t sound like Jesus being very helpful.
But what happens next? Jesus does a miracle, and gives the food to the disciples to give to the people. The disciples did the work, Jesus did the miracle. My favorite part of this story though is at the end, there are 12 baskets full of bread left over, just enough for the 12 apostles, (coincidence right?). Jesus could have just had manna rain down from heaven. He could have made fish appear in front of each person. But what Jesus does here is what Jesus is doing with us. Jesus provides the means, opportunity and even a miracle sometimes, and then uses us to do the work. We are the tools.
So if you are praying for a job, get out there and look, even if it is below you. If you are trying to figure out your future, go talk to people in your Church who have some life experience. If you are praying for chances to share the Gospel, then open your mouth and share. If you are praying to lose weight, then go on a diet and workout. If you are praying for a loved one’s salvation, go share the Gospel with them. If you are praying for the poor or orphans or widows, go do something to serve and help them. If you are praying about your finances, go seek Godly advice and counsel. If you are praying for the nations, go to the ends of the earth to tell them about Jesus. But remember that it is Jesus giving you the strength, courage, opportunity, or miracle needed for you to do it.
May we know that when we pray our Heavenly Father hears us and will do what is best. May we learn to humbly listen to our Father in prayer rather than demand. Let us follow our prayer with action and know that we are the tool that Jesus is using to answer prayers. Let us give glory to the Craftsman not the tool. But may we be readily available tools for whatever work God would have us do.