What Happens when I Pray?

I am still contemplating the significance of prayer in our journey with God—both personally and on the grand scale of His plan for building His kingdom in the world. Some of what I’ve been learning and am experiencing in my own life, may be obvious. I guess it should be obvious, but it’s certainly been a bolster to my faith. So here are a few recent insights I wanted to share, as an offering, to encourage you in this faith walk.

  1. Prayer is about asking: It’s so easy for us to swing on a pendulum from one end of a spectrum to the other, and not even notice that we’re still away off center. This is true when it comes to the issue of making requests of God. He isn’t a cosmic Santa Clause, waiting for us to climb on his lap and make our requests, and then fulfilling each one in brightly colored packages on Christmas morning. That’s one end of the pendulum of asking. On the other end, is the idea that since God’s not at my beck and call and he knows far better than me what I need, I shouldn’t allow my prayers to be me-focused with a bunch of personal requests. But Scripture clearly teaches that prayer includes asking. In his prayers Jesus asked God for specific needs, including the bolstering of the disciples’ faith and against Satan’s power in their lives. He also begged for his own impending suffering to be averted. He taught the disciples to pray for their daily physical as well as spiritual needs. Paul told the Philippians to “Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” Asking involves humbling myself to admit need. It also involves giving up my control over the answer. I have to trust God to answer my request according to his GOOD purpose. Additionally, asking often puts me in a position of patience, because I have to WAIT for the answer, instead of trying to work it out myself.
  2. I can expect God to answer and still experience the joy and surprise of that answer: I used to feel like if I pray in faith, then I should accept the answers as a matter of course. I prayed for something good, and of course he answered. I knew he would. I am learning that expecting God to move, doesn’t eliminate the joy and surprise I feel when he does move. For the past six weeks I have been praying that Milwaukee will be known as a city where the power and presence of God are evident. Yesterday in church our pastor quoted several national Christian leaders who were acknowledging the powerful presence of God through His body in offering peace and hope during the outbreak of violence we experienced in early August—which they also noted ended far more quickly than is typical in these kinds of situations. My heart leapt with joy and surprise. God is answering my prayer! He is moving. I’m excited by that, and rightly so.
  3. Prayer unites us: When I pray for someone, my love for them grows as I feel more connected with them. Often we pray for what we care about. But if we will purposefully pray for people and issues we might not tend to care deeply about, we will discover a care and compassion growing in us through that investment in prayer. This has been my joyful experience as I pray for my brothers and sisters around the world, whom I see once a year at best. They are far away and they come from an entirely different culture and way of life. But as I purpose to pray for them, I feel closer to them; this in turn means, I am blessed and excited by growth and progress in their life and ministry.

There is more, so much more. Prayer is indeed a phenomenal gift. Next week I will share three more insights on praying big.


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