We often pray because we desperately want something to change. We pray the suffocating marriage in which each person feels desperately alone will change. We pray the diagnosis, the weather, our awful bosses, or our finances will change.
We know prayer changes things, so we pray and we pray. We just don’t know when, why, or how the change will take place.
The theology of prayer is complex, as it should be considering we are talking to one who is complicated beyond comprehension.
However, I wish I had a formula for prayer that worked the same every time. Well, I actually wish the formula worked the same for me every time. I am not sure I want everyone’s prayers answered. If everyone prays like me, then some pretty dumb requests are going out there that we don’t all want answered.
So I just want mine answered every time and everyone else’s when God, in his infinite wisdom, is working everything together for the greatest good of all people.
Oh, I sound like my prayers are selfish? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that is a common theme in most prayers. We want things to change for us and the people we love or the people whose lives will somehow impact our own. We are oh so human praying to an infinite God asking him for finite things to make our own lives easier or better.
We don’t pray desperately for the poverty that is devastating a 3rd world country. We pray tame, rational, calm prayers for those countries when we see a video our go on a missions trip, but over time we stop praying even though the situation is the same.
We only pray the passionate and persistent prayers for situations that impact our lives the most. We beg and we plead when it is our lives in turmoil. We persist until something gives or we lose faith in the power of prayer.
This is why I am frustrated by what I understand best about prayer: prayer changes me.
I’ve begun to pray, “God, change the situation. Please don’t just change me.”
However, his answer continues to come most frequently in a change in my perspective, my ability to see the good, or my comprehension of his greatness in the scenario.
It’s so annoying, and it’s also exactly what I need.
But sometimes I grow tired of changing. Maybe this is why I often resist my husband’s theology on prayer. He believes the purpose of prayer is to bring us into alignment with the work of God and not for us to bring God into alignment with our wills.
Of course he is right. Again… so annoying.
But I also think prayer isn’t an either or. I don’t think God only tells us to pray because it will bring us into alignment with his will, or he only tells us to pray because our prayers will be powerful and cause circumstances to change. I think it is both and. Meaning it is both those things and more.
I believe Jesus wasn’t lying when he said, “You don’t have enough faith. I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible” (Matthew 17:20).
I believe in a God that does move actual, physical mountains through prayer. I never doubt his ability to heal the individual with cancer or to break the patterns of the addict in an instant. But I also don’t know his will for each situation and how it will impact the much bigger picture. So I don’t know how to pray with complete faith that I am praying his will when I ask for his divine intervention.
This is why I need prayer that changes me. I need prayer because it aligns my will to God’s will. His will is always best. And he wants us to come to home again and again with everything that matters to us. He isn’t angered or annoyed by our desire to see him intervene. It pleases him to meet our needs and to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11).
Of course I always think physical healing or instantaneous freedom from addiction is good, but I can only see the good in front of me.
God sees the impacts and the outcomes that ripple out for the entire world for all time. I’m pretty sure he knows more of what needs to change than I do. So sometimes I am the one being changed in prayer, and sometimes God changes my circumstances.
As I surrender each situation in prayer and ask God to take control, I always change.
God doesn’t need me to surrender the situations to him. He is always in control. The surrender is for me. I am the one who after praying long enough just might come to a place of peace, understanding, or hope.
He knows what mountains need to move and which ones need to stay right where they are. He gives us the chance to get in line with his will. Then we can pray with confidence, with faith unshakeable, for the mountain to move.
So I will pray, “God, won’t you please change something, even if it’s me?” And some days the mountains will shift and some days it will be my heart. But every day, God will work all things together for his glory and our good.