I have a hard time praying, not because I don’t believe God can answer prayer, but because I overthink the process. So I try to pray because God’s Word quite clearly directs us to pray constantly (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) even though I fail miserably.
Christ-followers of different stripes profess all sorts of beliefs about prayer. The brethren I truly admire simply obey God’s Word from a simple, childlike faith, without cognitive conflicts. They are the ones who pray for miracles and watch God provide those miracles. Unlike some believers who demand God’s obedience to their prayers, they don’t just pray in Jesus’ Name; they live in Jesus’ Name.
My problem with praying is the opposite of those who demand answers to their prayers, and it’s because of one Scripture passage:
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16b)
While I correctly claim for myself the righteousness of Jesus, there is no way I can consider my life righteous in the sense of living without fault. Though I must claim God’s grace over my faults, I can’t ignore other Scripture passages that instruct us to be righteous:
If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. (1 John 2:29)
Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (1 John 3:7)
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Romans 1:17)
Where are my answers to prayer?
I’ve prayed for the same things over the years, things that would make me more Christlike, such as greater self-control, more active love, more intimacy with my Father God. I want to remember Scripture passages so I can recall them when needed for meditation or encouraging others. I want holy boldness to confront sin with love as my Savior did. I want to be remembered as a man after God’s own heart, and holy, because God is holy. And that’s all I want.
I ask, Is that too much, Lord?
His answer doesn’t satisfy, even though I know it’s true. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
I ask, Why, then, do I not see godliness in my life?
He answers, So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.
I ask, But I’m a mess, Lord. How can you use me like this?
He answers, Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?
I am humbled by His truth. Why couldn’t I see it before. Father, use me however you wish. As messed up as I am, I trust Your perfect judgment. Thank you, Lord, for all my faults and my strengths, for they are Yours.