People don’t pray much, even Christian people. Why is that? Because we don’t beleive it does much, because we think we are unworthy, because we think God is a utilitarian scrooge, and because we think we already know what God will or won’t give us if we pray. But something is wrong with each of these reasons.
- We don’t believe that prayer does anything – most people, esp. unbelievers, of course, don’t pray because deep down, they don’t believe that God answers prayer, and that all supposed answers to prayer are just coincidences, or selective memory – that is, we ignore the data when prayer is not answered, and remember it when it is. Recent studies question whether prayer does anything, though results are inconclusive.
- We believe we have to be good enough to get answers – often, we think that God will only answer the prayers of the Mother Theresa’s of the world, but not us. However, this flies in the face of scripture, esp. those like:
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord
While there are some qualifications on which prayers God answers – like he refuses to hear us if we have known, un-confessed sin in our lives, or if husbands are not loving their wives – He does not hold out some holiness requirement in order to provide answers
- We think God is utilitarian about prayer – that is, we think that God only answers prayers that have to do with ‘God’s work’, or preaching or evangelism. But God likes to answer prayers for things that make us happy, not just work-related stuff. I think that this is part of the John 15 passage above – if we have him first in our lives (as much as is possible at our current maturity level), we can ask whatever we DESIRE. That is an important point to consider.
- We think we know what God does and does not want to give us – as prideful as that sounds, it’s often true that we assume that God doesn’t want to give us certain things because they might be too luxurious, or unrelated to evangelism, or we think he MUST want to give us that large ministry because He wants to reach the world. The truth is, we should pray for all that’s in our heart, and see what happens. We will often be surprised at the good things God gives us, as well as the things that are withheld.