Troublesome Topic: Questions and Concerns about Prayer

How Should This Affect the Way We Pray for Healing?

In regard to healing, I simply pray that God will glorify Himself. I know He will always answer that prayer, I just don’t know how or when. By praying that He glorify Himself I am allowing Him to choose whether that glorification comes through miraculous healing, perseverance, or the ultimate healing of taking His child home to be with Him.

If God shows me that His specific will for a given situation is to heal, I can claim that healing, but if He does not reveal that to me, I simply pray for Him to glorify Himself and leave the method of answering up to Him. How many beggars did Peter and John see on their way to the temple? We do not know, but we can assume there were others. But when they got to the gate called Beautiful God impressed on them that, in this case, He wanted to heal. In order to know His will we need to enjoy more time with Him. We also need to be willing to allow Him to work in a way that may not be our first choice.

How Does This Impact Our Use of “Prayer Requests”?

If we are honest with ourselves, most of the things shared as prayer requests are actually favors we want from God. Too often a list of prayer requests is a list of everyone we know who is sick. Other times it is a list of problems we are having that we want God’s help with, be it medical, financial, relational or otherwise. Few of our prayer requests focus on the “big picture” of what God wants to do in the hearts of men. Most of our prayer requests focus on us.

We need to change the way we pray and seek a prayer life that puts God at the center instead of self.

Please do this mental exercise with me. Think of the top handful of politicians who, in your opinion, are causing the most damage to your country. Write down their names. Now think of the top handful of prominent people, be it actors and actresses, athletes or musicians, who are using their considerable influence to guide people deeper into sin. Write down their names. Now think of the prominent people in this world whom you consider to be downright evil. If you have not written their names already, write them on your list at this time. Add to your list people who were well-known Christian leaders but have fallen into sin or rejected their faith in Christ. One more group – write down the names of people you know personally and have contact with regularly that you don’t like, or you find it hard to get along with. Now look at your list and ask yourself, “Have I ever prayed for any of these people, of have I just complained about them?” Some Christians have prayed for bad people and people they don’t like, but many have never considered doing so. Yet this is what we should be doing! Asking God to draw them, to call them, to woo them to himself in powerful ways is true prayer. And when we pray for people regularly it changes how we think of them. We will begin to see them, not as bad people, but as people for whom Christ died. We will become perceptive of their spiritual and emotional needs. Prayer brings us in line with the mind of God because true prayer must agree with God’s expressed will.

What about Prayer before Meals?

I don’t know about you, but I have gotten used to inserting a request or two into my prayer of thanks before a meal. Once that habit was firmly established in me, it seemed normal and right. Then I heard that the Jews repeat a simple expression of thanks at each meal. They always say, “Blessed are you, Oh Lord, our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth” (or, if it was a blessing over a cup of wine, they said, “who makes the fruit of the vine”). That seemed strange to me. I wondered why they said the same thing every time. Now I see wisdom in the way they did it. They expressed their thanks, and recognized God’s sovereignty at the same time. That was all. No requests for “favors.”

I am trying to make changes in this area too. I am trying to just give thanks for the food and stop adding in requests for favors.

What about the Prayer of Jabez?

In I Chron. 4:10 we read the prayer of a man named Jabez. The part of the prayer that is most often emphasized is this: “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory.” The verse ends by saying that God granted his request. Does that mean that this was an example of true prayer? Is this how we should always pray? No. This is an example of asking God for favors. It is also an example of how God, in His great mercy and grace, sometimes gives us favors. The fact that God answered that prayer is not a reflection on the nature of prayer; it is a reflection on the nature of God. Many have been impacted by the book The Prayer of Jabez. Unfortunately, it has only served to increase our bad habit of praying about ourselves and for ourselves. We are in the habit of using prayer as nothing but asking God for favors, and when a book like The Prayer of Jabez comes along, it seems to justify such bad habits.

The next lesson is  Admonitions about Prayer