This past winter, my heart mulled over a mysterious lapse in my prayer life, causing disquiet as the Holy Spirit surfaced the sin. Initially, I couldn’t recognize the problem. And then I read this:
“And he (Jesus) told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, ‘In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, “Give me justice against my adversary.” For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, “Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.”’ And the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’” (Luke 18:1-8 ESV)
Of course, as is usually the case, I then saw this truth everywhere, popping up in sermons, in articles, and in other passages. We are often blind. The Holy Spirit knows that we need to see the message repeatedly before the light comes on and the ah ha! moment follows.
Simultaneous to this realization, in my study through Isaiah, I came upon the Lord praising the watchmen — the prophets, those who kept watch over Israel’s spiritual well being. He said this in Isaiah 62:6-7:
On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest,
and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.
Here, we learn that the watchmen prayed constantly, urged continually, and begged God repeatedly to fulfill his promises, to answer their prayers for Israel, for Messiah’s coming, and for their restoration. They never ceased. There were never silent. They reminded the God who never forgets not to forget them. They expected an answer.
This is the prayer model that Jesus likewise lifted up in that opening passage: Don’t quit praying. Pester the Lord with your requests. Expect him to act.
This is the prayer model Jesus lifted up: Don't quit praying. Pester the Lord with your requests. Expect him to act. Click To Tweet
Okay, so we all know that. But, do we really?
Have you ever prayed long and hard for something or someone? Have you then seen the results veer in a direction that seemed to be the exact opposite of your prayer requests? Did you lose heart? Then, in your frustration at God or due to your loss of heart, did you quit praying?
In my devastation, I gave up gradually, rather than suddenly. It crept up on me. Many years of begging God seemed to have resulted in the opposite of everything I’d prayed, yet I knew I had asked for good things of which he approves. I prayed for things that God himself tells us to bring to him in prayer, things that are the best.
However, and this is a huge however, I am not God.
Seeing and hearing these passages everywhere caused me to recognize that I had lost heart because I had forgotten the sovereign goodness of God. I know the fact of God’s sovereignty theologically, front and back. I believe it, but emotionally, I wrongly felt betrayed by him.
I had forgotten that God works in ways that I never even know, nor could possibly even guess, in order to bring about the end results. I learned this when, all of a sudden, these prayers were answered in unexpected ways long after I had quit begging every day. This gave me heart. I began to pray again. But, now I prayed differently.
What God had not answered were the specific ways and means that I had spelled out for him. I had prayed for excellent things, for blessings, asking him to bring these good things. I had dictated to God how it should happen, and so, of course, he didn’t answer that prayer, because he knew better.
My ways are not his ways. In asking for first this beautiful thing and then that one to occur in a neat little row so that the good outcome would arrive, I had been wrong in the way I had prayed.
I didn’t leave the means to God, the God of the universe who knows our hearts and minds better than we know ourselves. He knows the course of history, knows exactly what is necessary, and knows the heart of every single person in my prayers. I had told him how to go about his business, rather than praying:
“Lord, whatever it takes, because only you know what that is, please bring this about according to your will.”
Pray like this: Lord, whatever it takes, because only you know what that is, please bring this about according to your will. Click To Tweet
Why pray like this? Because we have no idea what answering that prayer will involve, or what God will need to allow to happen. Maybe the blessings we ask would result in the opposite outcome of what we actually seek, not resulting in what is truly good at all. God knows how to bring people to himself. We don’t.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. . . This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:1, 3-5 ESV).
In the case of the prayer I had gradually quit praying, it had taken the opposite actions to produce the results for which I had prayed. God opened my eyes. There it was. In losing heart, I had stopped praying when all I had needed to do was to shift to a more yielded position.
I hadn’t yet yielded to: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Have you ever done this? Do you beg for the particulars about how God should bring about someone’s salvation or a specific request? We give God a list of specifics. We think we know what is needed, but we don’t.
Let God have it. Don’t be afraid. Give it to the Lord.
He’s the One who knows how to do what is best and according to his will. Pray that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is a prayer built upon good theological footing.