25 June 2012

prayer is not a suggestion box

{image credit: hjukkhj}
Supplicatory prayer is less about getting what we want from God than it is about submitting what we want to God.

In Philippians 4 Paul says, "The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Paul makes the link clear: supernatural peace rises from the knowledge that we've given our requests to the Sovereign One. It doesn't hinge on confidence that we will get exactly what we prayed for.

Whatever we receive will be good, however, and it's that truth which brings rest.

I do believe that God invites us to bring specific requests to him, material desires included. As C.S. Lewis observes in The Weight of Glory, "There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this is rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it." So yes, God cares about jobs and houses and parents and children and wars and diseases. He never asks us to pretend the physical facts of the world don't exist. He is honored, I think, when we boldly ask Him for help and then submit ourselves to His answer.

I guess what I mean to say is that prayer is not merely a suggestion box, wherein we drop a slip of paper through the slot and hope the manager implements our idea. It's not "asking for things"--it's a lot better than that. As Christians we have received an invitation to talk to the manager himself, and not just during office hours. We can run right in, day or night, to tell him our troubles. Then we can listen to His voice, realize His love for us again, and gather up our faith to trust His plans.

Over the past several years my prayers have become more like conversation. I now see prayer as a way to bring my heart before God, wrestling through each challenge with His help. It's a means of fellowship with Him instead of a lever on a candy machine. Through it, He shapes my soul and opens my eyes to see His glory, which is ultimately more important than the granting of my particular request.
One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock . . .
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
“Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
(from Psalm 27)
Prayer is one way to inquire in His temple, sincerely seeking His face. This kind of conversation is so rich and gives such satisfaction. Even if He hears our request and gives us something else, we can be at peace, because we've been with Him.

(I'd already written this post when I came across this one from Ann Voskamp. "When you pray with eyes on Christ and not on the crisis--your prayers are always answered: He edifies, He embraces, He is enough." Looks like I'm not the only one with prayer on my mind.)


  1. Thanks for the encouragement....


  2. Love the Lewis quote and the truth that it expresses. Certainly Christ would not have been incarnated as a human if our material lives were essentially bad, or as some religions say, illusory.