This post is a continuation from the earlier post, “Questions On Prayer.” Following our series, “Conversations”, we had a q & A in the last session and were not able to respond to many, many good questions. I’ve compiled them by subject, and hopefully between previous post, this post, and the next, we can cover most of the questions.
What is an “answer” to prayer? Jesus did say, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened,” and he was talking about prayer. But it’s also important that we take that statement in its entirety. If we are asking, seeking, and knocking, all three, what we ask for and seek for will change. As we learned in the third week of this series, prayer, being an “exchange of wishes” (the literal meaning of the word), is a surrender of our wants and desires to God. When we do that, and earnestly seek after what God wants and pray in that direction, we receive. The Apostle John made reference to this when he said, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us” (1 John 5:14).
So when we do not receive what we initially ask God to give us, it does not meant that there was no answer. If we continue to pray, and continue to seek His will, and continue to surrender to him, our wants begin to change and our praying is aligned with the Holy Spirit’s leading within us, and we see our prayers answered. Sometimes that answer is a change in our thinking and desires.
How can I be sure I am praying according to the will of God? I don’t know that it is necessary that we be sure. Jesus wasn’t even sure all the time. When he was praying in the Garden, he was asking for something that he was unsure of, and acknowledged it in prayer. But he surrendered his human will to the Father’s will. And that’s the key. As I repeated throughout “Conversations”, the goal of prayer is not to get things from God, it’s to have an encounter with God, a merging of the minds, and exchange of desires. So the more we pray, the more confident we become of the things we pray about, because we are letting go of our own desires, giving them to God, and receiving the mind of Christ. Our focus moves from what we want to wanting what God wants. But prayer is all about faith and the nature of faith demands an element of uncertainty. We will seek after God’s will and in some case will know exactly what it is. But there are other times that he keeps his ways and thoughts to himself…and he has that right. He’s God! (Isaiah 55:8).
What if you don’t know how to pray for someone and/or a situation? The Apostle Paul answered this in Romans 8:26, “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.” There are many times when I go to God on behalf of someone else, or even myself, but I do not know what would be best or how to pray. So I simply give it to him. It tell him that I don’t know the answer, but that I trust him. And I ask him to reveal himself in this and intervene in whatever way he knows is best. So not knowing how to pray actually enhances my prayer life.
Why do we need to pray before meals? Because Jesus did. Every time we read of him eating in the Gospels, he thanked the Father for the food and “blessed” the food. So we believe in Jesus’ example, and this is an excellent way to remind ourselves of our dependance on him, expressing gratitude for his provision, and even our dependance on him to make use of the food to nourish our bodies.
Stay tuned. I’ll be responding to more in posts ahead…