Lately I have been challenged with the thought of praying and believing that God answers prayer. Over the past week I have been experiencing God’s unwavering and faithful answer to prayer. It is been both encouraging and humbling and also caused me to feel a little bit of shame for feeling surprised at the fact that God answers prayer. I ask myself, why is it that when I pray, God answers that I feel so surprised? Where is the doubt coming from? How is it that I can truly have faith that God does answer prayer?
I think the answer lies in the fact that I need to stop relying on my own knowledge and timeline and start turning to what God’s word has to say on the subject. I have a nasty habit of attempting to trick myself into thinking that I am truly relying on God to hear to my prayers when in truth I am praying with a seed of doubt. It is almost like I am putting up a defense mechanism in trying to protect myself from getting hurt. I forget that God is the only one who has never lead me astray, never wronged me and has always remained faithful to have the best in mind for me.
It is a hard lesson to learn and I don’t think that this is something that we can grasp overnight. I think that it takes a constant pursuing of daily immersing myself in God’s word and being honest in my prayers about feeling doubt and discouragement when I pray.
Here are three lessons that I have been challenged with and learning to trust in when it comes to prayer:
Learning to pray steadfastly
The idea of praying steadfast means to do it with an unwavering attitude. It means to consistently keep on praying with a sense of stubbornness that God is listening. This kind of prayer is constant and persistent, it never stops and it is a kind of prayer that communicates that you trust that God is hearing you and is in control.
There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man: And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary. And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man; Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith. And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:2-8)
I remember when I was in university and I had signed up for a course that I later found to be very difficult to manage. I decided that I had wanted to drop the course but when I sent in my request, I was told that I had passed the deadline to drop a course by just a day. I remember feeling incredibly discouraged because this was not a course I wanted to have to stick with for a whole semester. So I was told that I had to email the registrar to ask for permission but that I would probably be told that I have to stick with it. I sent it in my request and then started praying that God would somehow allow for me to get permission to drop the course. I remember telling myself to take the time to keep on praying and to not give up. So throughout the day, any time I had the chance to pray I would.
I don’t recall exactly how long it was before I heard back, but when I did, it was the good news of me getting permission to drop the course. This may not be a profound story but the truth is that when we learn to pray steadfastly, it teaches us to take the reliance off ourselves on depend on God and that He will answer us in His perfect timing and His own way. I also learned to trust that even if I was told to take the course that God would give me the strength to make it through. I had to learn that I am not surviving this life by any means of my own ability but through God’s Grace working in my life, moment by moment, day by day. The answer is not found in the result, it is found in learning to completely lean on God and continually pray without giving up that He is listening and will answer us.
Learning to pray fervently
To pray fervently means to pray with passion and excitement. It means finding our deepest joy in communicating with God. When we pray we are communicating with an all powerful and loving God, the one who created this entire planet. That thought should stun and amaze us! It should cause to run to Him each time with our hearts of thankfulness, deepest desires, and worries that plague us. Passionate prayer is a sign of having a strong affection to pour out our hearts to God and in turn hear back from Him. I remember when I first started attending my current local church, one of the elders got up to pray and I was so moved by the emotion and excitement he felt during his prayer. There was a sense of talking to God is exciting and recognizing that all that we have in this life is because of who God is and what He has done for us. Some examples of passionate prayers are found all throughout Scripture.
One great example is the prayer of Hannah when she came desperately before God, asking for a son. Hannah had not been able to have children and it was her deepest desire to be a mother. She had experience a tremendous amount of ridicule for not being able to bare children and she could have either chosen to fall away from God or fall before God with her sadness and pain. 1 Samuel 1:10-11 give us a glimpse into how passionately and fervently she prayed.
She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” (1 Samuel 1:10-11)
I have learned that when I find joy in communicating with my heavenly father, it increases my love for Him and desire to grow closer in my relationship with Christ each day. It causes me to joyfully surrender my deepest thoughts, desires and frustrations without worry that my cries to my loving and heavenly Father will never go unanswered.
Learning to pray with God’s will in mind
This is probably the hardest lesson out of the three for me to grasp. Sometimes when I pray, I tend to pray for a specific need but I also tend to ignore the fact that it is ultimately God’s plan for my life that is going to play out. I need that constant reminder that God’s ways and thoughts are higher and He has a greater purpose in mind for my life. I don’t think its wrong to pray for a specific prayer, but more importantly we are to ultimately surrender our requests before God trusting that He will bring about an answer that is way better then we could ever imagine. It is all about recognizing that I cannot control the future and nor do I want to. It is finding contentment in the fact that God has planned out every detail of my life, so in my prayers I am to surrender to that truth.
“Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-13)
Another passage that emphasizes this point is when Christ prayed right before going to the cross.
And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Here Christ is not asking for God to change His mind. He is bringing to light that this was indeed God’s plan all along and it is God’s will for Him to die. That is a picture of total and complete surrender. It is a hard lesson to learn but once we submit our requests to God and allow for His plan to trump ours, we begin to see just how purposeful and loving He is towards us.
Prayer is means in which we experience what it is to fully surrender our lives to God. I am thankful that He cares about our lives so much and is eager for us to come to Him with the joys and worries of life.