|Photo by Andre Vandal|
I’m not a theologian, but I’ve played one on stage.
I’ve also been a praying woman for a certain span of decades, the number of which I’m not going to share. But I’ve discovered the secret to getting my prayers answered the way I want.
It’s simple. It’s effective. And it works every time.
Were I a money-grubbing pseudo-journalist who just wants your revenue-generating clicks, I’d make this a stop-motion, waiting-for-ad-#62-to-load, 40-image slideshow with eight more frames between my questionably topical teaser and part one of 15 of a likely disappointing answer.
But I’m not. So here it is, the magic formula, red-phone-to-God recipe for success in prayer:
Start wanting what God wants.
Yes friends, it’s just that easy.
When Jesus said, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it,”1 he was serious. You either believe him or you don’t. It’s a pass/fail class.
The lynchpin, however, is that little three-word phrase right in the middle: “in my name”.
Eeyow. What’s that even mean?
Only that if you ask in Jesus’ name, it’s got to be something Jesus can get behind. If you’re not sure what qualifies, run your request past the Lord’s prayer2, which was Jesus’ syllabus for Praying 101 when his disciples asked him how to do it. Here’s the fast and dirty cheat sheet:
Does my request glorify God?
Would it make earth more like heaven?
Is it an actual physical necessity I have or someone else has?
Would fulfillment of this request align me with God or with Satan?
One time I heard a sports commentator mock Tim Tebow before a game, because he thought Tim was praying for his team to win.
Holy infantile inferences, Batman. Any person who subjects himself to public ridicule for his faith already possesses entirely too much spiritual maturity to pray that kind of puerile nonsense. I can think of five things, right off the top of my un-athletic little head, that Tim Tebow might have been on his knees about before a televised football game:
Thank you, God, for the privilege of getting to earn a living doing what I love.
Help me do my best to honor you and my team today.
Protect every player on the field, and let no one come to harm during this game.
Let all of us be positive role models to the kids watching us and hoping to one day be professional athletes too.
Bless every person who came out to watch us today, and bring them into a closer relationship with you.
God has a will, and he actually does want us to participate in it. But we need to be on the same side of the tug-of-war rope, pulling in God’s direction with him, instead of against him, if we want to participate in that will.
We may be momentarily dispirited, however, when we acknowledge that although results to this prayer strategy do not vary—God’s will will be done—we may or may not get to see those results unfold. Sometimes God slaps an unequivocal “Yes and Amen!” onto our request before we’ve even finished speaking it; other times he seems to be working on geological time while we’re running a squeaky hamster wheel, cardio at 270 beats per minute.
But be assured, he is working. And he loves our prayers when they’re asking him to do the very thing he wants to do. (He’d really like for us to calm our frantic selves down and trust him.)
So friend, whatever you’ve got going on today, God’s as close as a whisper in your ear. You may know exactly what to ask for, but if you don’t, then just ask that: “God, what’s your will in this?”
He will tell you, if you really want to know.
1 John 14:14 (ESV)
2 Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV)