I’ve been struggling lately with my prayer life. As I study Nehemiah, prayer is a central focus of the book and of Nehemiah’s life so I’m taking a deeper look at my own prayer life. I pray quite frequently, usually in “spurt prayers” throughout the day, but I have a harder time spending quality time with God in prayer. I know it builds intimacy and closeness. I also know He instructs us to pray constantly and to take everything to Him. Knowing this, I still fall short in my prayer life. I think partly, it’s because I don’t fully understand prayer. I heard a sermon recently where the pastor said, “There is a mystery with prayer we are going to have to grow comfortable with.” I think that’s true, but even with known mysteries, I’ve still spent time trying to have more belief in the power of prayer.
Sometimes, I pray for someone fervently. I fast and I pray and I spend so much time with God about a person or an issue and the prayer is answered. The person is healed or the person gives their life to Christ or the issue is resolved, whatever the prayer may be. But other times, I spend the same amount of time praying for someone and the results are opposite. The person dies or the person never chooses Christ or the issue is never resolved. So why, why spend all that time in prayer if we don’t know it will work? That’s been my question lately, and I’ve struggled with feeling guilty over those doubts. So I went looking for answers, and I started in His word. Then I talked to friends, spiritual mentors and people who hold me accountable. And then I listened to sermons on prayer from various pastors. After all that, I don’t have any specific answers, but I know I will continue praying, and I know I believe in prayer. Here’s why…
God is sovereign. I am a lowly human without any supernatural powers. I don’t know the big picture. But I do know that eight years ago, I went through a really tough trial. I brought it on myself, and unfortunately, handled it myself. I didn’t turn to God for guidance, and because of that, I made some wrong choices. I also know that earlier this year, God used that season of my life to bring someone to Him. A friend had a similar experience as I’d had eight years earlier, and God used my testimony to be a witness of His redemption and love. So when I thought my prayers weren’t being answered eight years ago, they were — just not the way I realized. It was and still is, a perfect example of His sovereignty. Matt Chandler, a pastor in Dallas, preached a sermon series on prayer earlier in the year. He pointed out that we don’t have enough information or facts to understand the will of God. As His children, “we must trust the sovereignty of God as it expands out, so much further than our own understanding.” It’s an intricate plan, one that we don’t always see. Seeing without believing is faith in its simplest form.
God is jealous. He’s not jealous of us; He is jealous for us. He doesn’t want me part of the time. He doesn’t want me as a lukewarm Christian. He wants all of me on fire for Him, my whole heart. In those times when my prayers were answered, I saw His faithfulness. Each time a prayer, big or small, was answered, I clung to Him knowing the joy and blessings came from His hand. Because I’d asked. Because He’d shown me grace and said yes. Nothing makes a person more faithful than seeing prayers answered. But in those moments when He had a bigger purpose and a larger plan in mind and my prayers weren’t answered the way I’d hoped, I leaned into Him even harder. I prayed more. I prayed differently. Each prayer brought me closer to Him in a way I’d never experienced before. Prayer helped me fall more in love with Him, and I was given a clearer picture of Him and His love for me. Maybe He didn’t answer my prayer because He wanted me to draw nearer to Him. He is jealous for me. I know His ultimate desire is for all to come to Him, but I also know in Isaiah 43:4, He tells us we are “honored and precious” to Him. So much so that He says to us, “because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations in exchange for your life.” That is an incredibly powerful love.
God is faithful. I have seen His goodness time and time again. In Psalm 37, David writes, “Delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” That might be one of the most misquoted verses in the bible. It doesn’t mean God will give us whatever we want. It means that when we draw close to Him and we seek Him, our desires become His desires. It means He shows us what we want and what we desire. It means He is faithful to change our hearts toward His will. When we seek His will, our desires are His and He will give us what we ask in His name. I want lots of things, but there are a few in particular that I want more than others. I pray for those things, and I believe those desires come from Him. I also believe that one day, those desires will become reality. But as I pray, I ask Him to take away the desires that don’t come from Him. If my desires are selfish and do not come from God, then I want no part in it.
I don’t have all the answers, and there are questions I will always ask. But I know God loves me, and I know He is using my life for His glory so I will continue to pray and seek His face. Because I know He is sovereign, I know He is jealous and I know He is faithful. And for me, that’s enough.
Do you struggle with prayer?
Dear Heavenly Father, you tell us to be still and know that you are God. You tell us to pray without ceasing and repeatedly, you answer prayers both large and small. I ask you to help me in my unbelief. Help me to recognize your sovereignty in my prayers and help me to recognize that “no” is also an answer because everything is perfect in Your time. Lord, I pray that I will grow stronger in my faith and my understanding that all things work together for Your glory and for my good because I love You. Help me to take heart in my prayers, knowing sometimes You call us to wait. Thank you for loving me so much. Thank you for your grace and mercy, even in moments when I fail to see it. Help me in my unbelief. Prayer changes things. I know because it’s changed me. Thank you. I love you. Amen.