If it's true that many Christians don't love to pray, especially when they are most in need of praying, then we have to ask why that is. And the answer is simply that too many Christians have never experienced the power of prayer. They have never experienced God answering their prayer in a meaningful way. And that is because too many Christians are too often praying for the wrong things.
We've heard this before, and we just sort of groan and say, yeah, yeah, and resign ourselves to forsaking our own best prayer in favor of simply giving ourselves over to "whatever God wants to do." But this doesn't help, either. In fact, this makes things worse because it gives up our last bit of connection to our own circumstances and makes us victims to our own lives and, worse, victims to God - the very same God that we had hoped would help us.
The trouble is that our prayer often falls on either side of the sweet spot of the heart of God, and this is what leaves us more distressed than when we came.
We usually start by praying for our needs. Or rather, for our wants. We have invested ourselves in figuring out exactly what it is that will soothe our souls in this situation, and we know exactly what we want God to do for us. So we pray these super-specific prayers for how we expect God to act if He loves us, and then we maybe throw in a little guilt for Him, too, because He does love us, right? Well, God, time to prove it. Here is the best way You can show that You love me right now.
The problem, as we all know, is that we don't always know what's best for ourselves, even when we think that we do. Even when we're absolutely convinced that we know what is good, we might be wrong. And we even less often know what is best for the glory of God. So many of the good and beautiful things that we have learned about faith, faithfulness, and the Father have come through seasons of adversity in someone's life. Imagine, then, how much far less we'd know if everyone just had their adversity taken away because they prayed for that. It would change everything that we know about God - and not for the better. We cannot settle for a God who makes our lives easy when we have a God willing to make them holy.
So then we go the opposite direction and claim that we know nothing about God at all, that we can't know anything, that we are just pawns on His chessboard, and we resign ourselves. We give Him permission to move us around however He wants, and we think that there's nothing we can do about it and nothing we can know about it. That God just controls our lives however He wants to, and our most faithful act is just...letting Him do it.
But this doesn't satisfy our souls, either. This can't be what the faithful life is really all about.
Our best prayer, then, has to fall somewhere in between. It has to fall into that sweet spot of knowing God and His love and surrendering to Him, without demands and without resignation. It comes in this place that we might call "boldly approaching" the throne of God - knowing the very character of the King and trusting in His goodness and mercy while at the same time recognizing His authority and power and our position of surrender and our need of mercy.
What does this look like? We'll look at that tomorrow.
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