When my new Bible study, Prayer and the Word of God came out this spring, I’d intended to share portions of it in my blog from time to time, so readers could get an idea of what it’s about. Until this week, I’ve forgotten to do that. But here’s a sample now. This one comes from Lesson 6, “Beyond Prayer Formulas.” For my international readers—and anyone who uses an e-reader—you may appreciate knowing that Prayer and the Word of God is available in electronic formats such as Kindle. A list of links appears at the end of this post.
In John 14, Jesus says, “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (verses 13-14). That’s an amazing promise. And this isn’t the only verse like this in Scripture. Over and over we see promises that God will answer prayers when we remain in Him, agree with two or three people, ask in His name, have faith, and don’t waver (e.g. Matthew 18:19; John 14:13-14, 15:7; James 1:5-8, 5:14-16; 1 John 3:21-22, 5:14-15). How do those promises compare with your experiences with prayer?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably had some wonderful experiences when God did answer those prayers and you were amazed. But, like me, you may also have had experiences where what you’ve asked God to do is not what He has done—at least not from your perspective.
So what do we do with that? I don’t think there are any easy answers to that question. [However], the primary thing that has helped me when I am puzzled about praying according to God’s promises is to remember that prayer isn’t about using a formula to get the exact results I want. Prayer is about relationship.
Prayer is about relating with God. He reveals Himself to us in His written Word and tells us how life with Him works. But that doesn’t mean we can treat what we see in the Bible as a formula that, if we get it exactly right, obligates God to do exactly what we are asking.
The more I grow in my relationship with God, viewing prayer in the context of loving conversation with my good, wise, and loving Friend, I’m finding that I’m not as put out when my prayers aren’t answered in the fashion I hope they will be. These days, unanswered prayer becomes a topic for lively ongoing conversation with God. I don’t just drop my request in the Celestial Suggestion Box and wait for something to happen. Now I’m more likely to have a running conversation about whatever it is I’m asking God to do.
Here are some of the questions I might ask Him to talk with me about:
What do You see about this situation that I can’t, God? What are You doing behind-the-scenes?
- How are You working to transform me in this situation, God?
- How should I be praying concerning the other people involved in this situation?
- How might You want me to partner with You for the answer to this need?
- Am I getting in Your way somehow? Will You show me anything in me that hinders You from answering?
- Should I be asking You for something different, God? Maybe I’m asking the wrong thing?
- What would You like for me to be doing while I wait for You to come through on this, Father?
- What would You like me to better understand about You and Your character as I wait on You for this need or desire, God?
Some of the richest conversations I’ve enjoyed with God have come as a result of “unanswered” prayer. When I’ve taken the time to engage with Him about my prayer requests and the behind-the-scenes things He was doing, I’ve experienced a deep sense of His care for me. Many times I find myself saying, along with Paul, that though sometimes God has allowed my “thorn in the flesh” to remain, His grace truly is sufficient for me.
Links to retailers who offer electronic versions of Prayer and the Word of God::
CBD.com: http://www.christianbook.com/prayer-breakthrough-studies-small-groups-ebook/cynthia-bezek/9781935012559/pd/66143EB?item_code=WW&netp_id=1257130&event=ESRCG&view=details (image is not up yet- we will look into this)
Amazon – previously published by Amazon Digital Services 6/2/2014
Barnes and Noble published by Harvest Prayer Ministries 4/17/2014