by Donna Berger
Why do we pray? God certainly does not need us to tell Him what the desires of our heart are or what our needs are. He knows them even before we do. He can set our table each night at 6pm and lay out a feast for us. But the Lord loves us too much to strip away the close personal relationship He desires to have with each one of us. And prayer is the basis of that love relationship. For instance, each day we pray something like, “Lord, it’s rotisserie chicken tonight, please don’t let Publix run out before I get there” and then before we enjoy dinner, we pray again, “Lord, we thank you for the gift of this food before us and ask you to please bless it.” It’s an ongoing dialogue with the Lord that keeps us close to Him. Psalm 34:15: “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their cry.” Prayer is how we communicate with our Creator, our Heavenly Father.
Like the beginning of any relationship, things can be a bit awkward at first. Maybe we are not sure when to pray. Romans 12:12 says, “be constant in prayer,” and in Luke 18:1, Jesus says we “should always pray.” When we start our day, we don’t just say, “good morning,” and then not speak with those around us for the rest of the day, so why would we do that with God?
To be sure the morning is a good start. “Lord, thank you for this day. I humbly ask you to prioritize it for me. Fill me with your Spirit to guide and direct my thoughts, words, and actions according to your Will and Purpose. And Lord, please enlighten me today so that in all things I will bring You glory.”
Throughout our day there are endless opportunities to chat with the Lord. But the next question might be what should I pray about? We can praise God, thank Him, beg for forgiveness, ask for a favor, or just check in to say hello and tell Him how our day is going. For instance,
“Jesus, I praise You for the glory of this day. I don’t think I have seen a bluer sky.”
“Lord, I feel I am under attack right now, please give me strength to live according to Your expectations for me and protect me from the enemy.”
“Father, I bow down my heart before You, and ask forgiveness for losing my temper with the kids. Please give me strength and patience.”
“Lord, I lift up my friend Margaret who is having surgery today. Please let her be very aware of Your presence so she may be calmed and comforted. Guide the doctors and nurses who are caring for her as well.”
Perhaps you just need to feel the Lord’s presence. To simply pray the name, “Jesus,” in love and trust can calm an anxious heart.
Our prayers do not need to be long or complicated. In Matthew 6, Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” God does not refer to word count when we are praying, He is looking at the condition of our heart. Sincere prayer borne out of love of God and commitment to Him is what He asks of us. “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal them.” Chronicles 7:14
Last fall our Bible Study was of 1 John and this was a great takeaway, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us—we know that we have what we asked of Him.” 1 John 5:14-15
We might say, “I pray but God doesn’t answer me.” Back to the rotisserie chicken! By the time we get to Publix the last chicken is gone. “Why didn’t God answer our prayer?” Well, did we demand the chicken or did we say and mean it when we said it, “Lord, it would be nice to have chicken tonight, but if someone needs that last chicken more than me, I will understand. I pray according to your will and purpose Lord.” Jesus, Himself, in the “Lord’s Prayer” taught us to pray, “thy will be done.” What if after seeing no more chickens in the deli, we head over to the meat aisle to grab some burgers and bump into a friend who is crying. Her husband was just diagnosed with a terminal illness. We are so grateful to be able to give her some crumpled tissues and ask her and her family over for burgers. One chicken would have never cut it! The Lord’s plan saves. What if we get home with those burgers and our spouse says, “Oh, I had chicken for lunch. I am so glad you picked up burgers for tonight, I’ll be happy to cook them on the grill for us. How easy is that! The Lord gives the weary a chance to rest. God’s Will is ever perfect.
God always answers our prayers. John 9:31 tells us, “We all know that God does not listen to sinners, but He will listen to anyone who worships and obeys him.” And, Isaiah 59:2 tells us that, “our sins cut us off from God. Because of our sins, He turns away and will not listen anymore.” So first and foremost, we must be sure that our hearts are in the right state of grace when we turn to God. “Dear Lord, I have sinned and am so very sorry. I am ready to follow You and do my best to not sin again. Please fill me with the strength I need to stay in Your Grace.”
When we are in good standing with the Lord and we feel He has not answered a prayer, it may be because we don’t like the answer, or simply are not hearing His answer. We need to remember He only has our very best interest in mind. Sometimes the answer is, “no,” because what we are asking for is not good for us or someone else in our life. Sometimes we must be patient and continue to pray. His timing is always perfect. We prayed for a baby and four years later we found out we were pregnant. Sometimes God gives us even more than we can imagine or ask for. We had twins! So the next time Publix runs out of rotisserie chicken, just know that God has made other dinner plans for us.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6