Pray at All Times
by Pastor Derek
We talk a lot about prayer at Grace Pointe. Ephesians 6 reminds us to “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.” C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.” Prayer is talking to God. The power source of prayer is the Holy Spirit within us, who interprets our prayers before God. James 5 reminds us, “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” In prayer, we’re privileged to talk with God about who we are, where we’re going, and what matters to us. We even get to appeal to God arguing for the things we think should matter to Him. Sometimes, the Bible says that God is swayed by our prayers. This isn’t to state that God does what we command. But it is to say that God will often answer the prayers we provide.
Prayer changes us. Prayer changes things around us. So, most of us generally understand why prayer is important.
But what we can’t always understand is why, when we pray with power and expectation, those prayers for great things aren’t always answered in the 1) time we want, 2) in the way we want, or 3) in the manner we want. This post is meant to help with that. The best place to begin is the last place, namely the phrase “we want” at the end of all three points. We should freely admit that we don’t always know what we want, how we want it, or understand the implications of getting what we want when we want it. I’ve prayed for healings that never happened. I’ve prayed for healings that have happened. What’s the difference?
First, I know that if I don’t respond to God’s prompting to pray and if I don’t pray with integrity, then the thing that should happen may actually not happen. That’s a really difficult truth for most of us to accept. When we don’t pray, sometimes those things don’t occur. Not always. But sometimes. So, the negative side of praying can be as consequential as the positive side of praying. Not praying is a way to guarantee you won’t be changed and that God won’t answer because you didn’t ask. But it doesn’t mean nothing will happen. God is not dependent on you in order to accomplish what He chooses to do.
Second, we know that God is good. God wants the very best things for His children. And sometimes, when it seems as if only bad comes our way, we have to hold on to the truth that God is using the bad to work for our good. God uses all things for our good (Rom. 8:28).
Taken in combination, the first and second points let us know that asking God for things is better than not asking. Let me illustrate: Let’s assume you’re a good parent. You want the very best for your son or daughter. One day, you may decide to take them for ice cream whether they asked or not. It was completely your decision. Another day, they may ask you to go for ice cream. You, factoring a variety of circumstances (frequency, health, timing, etc.) decide you will or won’t go. You hadn’t planned on it, but you were open to it. In fact, if they asked you nicely (with the right heart and tone) and had completed their chores and weren’t demanding you do it, you’re likely prone to take them. They didn’t earn ice cream because you weren’t holding ice cream over their heads if they performed. Instead, they asked because 1) they love ice cream, and 2) you love them (and ice cream).
In both scenarios, the person with the power to deliver is the parent. The child doesn’t take themselves to ice cream. In both scenarios, the privilege is in the participation of the ice cream. Moreover, the ice cream is a bonus to your relationship with one another. And in both scenarios, there’s asking without demanding, and possible answers without coerced performance.
Prayer is like that, but with much more at stake (though likely no less delight on the part of our Father). Whenever I pray and things aren’t happening, I don’t blame God. I may get frustrated or angry. But I don’t blame God because I trust God. I may not like it. But my trust is in Him. And I trust Him based on the knowledge of Scripture: He wants what’s best for me, I’m not omniscient, and He has a propensity to deliver when asked. He gives me permission to ask honestly, confidently, and expectantly. But never demanding, cajoling, or coercing. Prayer changes us because it keeps us grounded in humility, honesty and love. It changes the world because God uses prayer so we can participate with Him in accomplishing His will for us and the world in which we live.