Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Sacrilegious Prayer Post I Previously Deleted

I posted this a few days ago, then immediately took it down because I was scared of people's responses.  I've gotten quite a few facebook messages about it, though, so apparently many of you have already read it and wanted to respond.  So here it is again.  I actually just finished a book that addressed a lot of my questions, so I might make a follow up post.  But I (think) I would love to hear your input.  Be nice. Lol.

My Problems with Prayer

Let me just preface this by warning you this may come off a little sacrilegious.  I'm a little scared to even post it.  But I'm just being completely honest and searching for answers.  I'd love some feedback on this one.

I think prayer is very useful for communicating with God.  It's essential for praising Him and thanking Him, and I'm grateful that Jesus' sacrifice allows us to "approach the throne of grace with confidence . . ." (Heb. 4:16).  I even think prayer is effective for seeking direction from God.  Should I go this way or that?  Although I think hearing God's answer can be difficult . . . that's a whole different post!

The biggest problem I have with prayer is "petitions."  Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Lately I've been overwhelmed with all the petitions I feel the need to present before God.  At small group last month, we committed to really pray for each other.  I taped the prayer requests to my bathroom mirror and have been trying hard to pray diligently for my friends.  But I can't just stop there.  Between us, Justin and I have 9 siblings, 3 siblings-in-law, 6 nieces and nephews, 4 parents, and 4 grandparents.  Then there are our other friends who aren't in our small group.  I have one cousin who just moved to Alaska, one stuck in a dead-end job, and another having debilitating migraines.  Of course, I feel like I should be praying the most for my own husband and daughter.  And I haven't even touched the world's needs: the victims of Haiti's earthquake, children dying of AIDs in Africa, girls being enslaved by the sex trade in Thailand.  It's exhausting!!

And lately (here's where I'm treading in dangerous waters), I feel like my efforts are futile.  The passage in Philippians continues, "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7).  God doesn't promise to grant our requests.  He only promises peace.  I guess I should take that and be happy, but I can't help but wonder, Why bother praying if God is going to do what He wants anyway?

Can our prayers change God's mind?  I've always heard that God is unchanging, His ways are above our ways, He is sovereign and knows what is best.  And I don't doubt that!  But then why ask Him for anything?

And does it matter how hard we pray?  That's something else I struggle with.  I usually get a line or two out for each family member: Lord, keep Libby safe driving to and from school, help her make wise decisions, provide for her a godly husband.  Lord, give Luke direction and clarity in Florida, give him safety, provide for him a godly wife.  I pray almost exactly the same thing every night.  Is God bothered by my lack of creativity?  Are my siblings sufficiently covered in prayer if that's all I pray for them?  What about Lucy?  How do I know that I'm praying hard enough for her?  How hard do I need to pray for my prayers to be effective?

I feel awful even asking this because I have seen God answer prayer.  He has provided for us so much in the past year.  We've been blessed beyond measure - always being able to pay our bills despite our financial disarray.  We've been safe and healthy and have enjoyed grace well above what we deserve.  But I've also seen Him say "no" plenty of times - and not just for shallow things.  I've seen Him say "No, I will not cure that woman of cancer.  No, I will not heal that sick baby.  No I will not save that person's marriage."  And it's then that I begin to wonder if prayer really makes a difference. :-(

Essentially, I'll pray because I'm commanded to.  Because Jesus did and He commanded that we do the same.  But I'd still appreciate any input you have on the issue! :-)



  1. I could have written this post, girl! I think what has been most liberating for me in my prayer life is when I ask myself about the purpose of prayer. Is the purpose of prayer for us to ask God to do our will? Or is purpose of prayer for God to ask us to do His will? Even Jesus Christ petitioned God to take the burden of the cross away from him, but he finished up with "Not my will but yours be done." Christ knew he had to face the cross, but he asked God anyway, not because he thought he could change God's mind but so that he could conform his heart to the will of his Father. So I wouldn't worry about whether your prayers have everything "covered." I don't have all the answers, but it has been truly liberating for me to focus my prayers on accepting/welcoming God's will, whether it's the same as mine or not.

  2. Our pastor did a series on prayer and he made an excellent point. We should be focusing on aligning ourselves with God's will and not the other way around. In other words, we should be praying that the things that move the heart of God become our priorities and not that we shoot up our requests flippantly and hope they are also God's requests. We often believe the myth that if we pray just the right way or enough times He will answer. He is not a genie and repeating the same prayer over and over does not do any tricks.

  3. Well, you know me...I hardly find this sacrilegious;) (Man, it took me a while to spell that correctly!:)

    I prefer to think of prayer as a conversation with God, knowing that He'll do what He's going to do anyway, but it's good to stay in communication with him...though I don't always understand why he does what he does.
    But you do have passages in Scripture that say "God changed his mind..." so then I think it is important after all.

    And the whole "pray hard" as always been a pet peeve of mine...I'm not even sure what it means. Like does it mean I scrunch up my face and concentrate really hard? Does it mean the length of my prayers matters? Does it mean I should kneel instead of just talking to him as I go about my day? I don't get it...and I dont' see it in Scripture anywhere.

    I know sometimes I get a little "paranoid" thinking "Oh my word, I haven't prayed enough words about that really important thing!" but then I calm down and think "Okay, he's in charge...I really doubt that my laying before him a reasoned, logical argument for why I want that person to survive cancer is going to somehow be better than 'God, please save her life. Her kids need her. You know that.'"

  4. I hear ya!! I have these struggles myself. Soo... I don't have any answers for you. But I will be stalking your post so I can read the answers :)

  5. Although I may not have answers I am choosing to respond anyways. Your posts are so real and open that I hope that if nothing else comes of this that you learn... "you are not alone". It seems that you are the only one who is asking the questions.

    As a child (a long time ago) I witnessed my grandfather pray for literally every person he knew. Church people, missionaries, sick, family, neighbors, friends.... etc. My grand parents did this daily after devotions in the morning. Anytime I would stay overnight with them I witnessed this. (My brothers and I would at times laugh at the length of prayers after devotions.) As he grew older, he had a harder time remembering all the names. My grandmother would help him remember by whispering the names during his prayer. Some of these prayers we repetitive but all meant something to my grandfather.

    Sadie... these prayers changed me. It wasn't about my grandfathers petition with God. It was an example of love that he was showing us. This also included the love my grandmother had for him, shown through her 'helps' - Not a frustration on his forgetfulness, but a gentle nudge as to not embarrass him.

    As I stated... these prayers changed me. Although I cannot say this is the definitive object that made me who I am today... But it is part of who I am today. I look at my parents and the influence they received from his prayers. My brothers, of which have been involved as pastors and leaders in their churches. I look at my cousins and their children and I can see a wake of Gods influence in their lives. His prayers had an outcome.

    Far too often we equate prayer with ourselves or the people for whom we are praying. But sometimes it is about our position and acknowledging that position to the only one who can change anything.

    In a society in which instantaneous is the expected, if we do not see the change in what we are seeking we consider it failure. I can assure you... I am changed through my grandfathers prayers and by my grandfathers prayers.

    I also think that we limit the capabilities of God. If a child takes a cup of water and pours it out on the ground, it is fluid and flows in all directions. The same can be said of an adult and a large bucket of sand. But what if a person could lift a barrel of golf balls and pour them on the ground...? from a larger perspective they flow the same as water. What if you could pour a building sized barrel full of house sized objects... the outcome would be the same. Now if God is maker of the universe.... couldn't he pour a barrel full of planets and watch is flow like water? If He is the God I am praying to... can't he change everything?


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