When people hear me talk about how their prayers are keeping them miserable and stuck, they look at me as though I’m a reprobate. I quickly say that it is not that they are praying that keeps them stuck. That’s good. That’s great!!! The problem comes when their prayers never change. Imagine the following scenarios:
1. Father is working diligently on son’s bike. Son comes and pleads with his father to “please fix my bike.” Father is working on it and is confused as to why he is asking him to do something he is already doing.
2. Wife confesses and apologizes for her inappropriate actions against her husband. He hears her and whole heartedly forgives her. She continues to plead for his forgiveness months later despite his continual reminding her of his forgiveness.
3. Employee believes his employer expects perfection. The employee becomes very anxious and concentrates only on what he is not doing perfectly instead of on what he is doing right. The employee finally quits his jobs because of the pressure.
What does this have to do with prayer? Well, I deal a lot with people who struggle with guilt, depression, and anxiety. They deal with frustration that their pain never seems to go away even though they are constantly praying to God for the pain to be gone. They pray for a change in their behavior that they know needs changed, such as anger, suspicion, worry, negative thoughts, gossip, mind reading, impatience, etc. Nothing seems to change despite worn out knees. Hope is replaced with hopelessness. What was strong faith now is doubt.
Consider changing your prayers. Instead of praying that He would act upon the things you are asking Him to do in you, why not thank Him for what He is doing. What I am suggesting is the prayer becomes a realization of God’s power and recognition that He is working regardless of what you are feeling and seeing. For instance, a grieving mother after several years of the loss of her child, begins to change her prayer from “Please remove this pain,” to “Thank you for helping me each day find a little more peace.” The husband who is praying for a change in his heart toward his wife begins to pray, “Thank you for preparing my heart for change. I don’t feel it yet, but I know you are working.” Even the parent who is praying for their adult child to get their act together but is seeing little positive change, could change the prayers from “Please”, to “I know Father, you love them more than I could ever and I know you are working on their hearts as I have asked. I look forward to seeing how you are going to get their attention in ways I have not.”
Now, this is not “name it and claim it” theology or just “positive thinking.” I have difficulty with believing that just because I want something that God will say, “Yes”. I know His love for me is deeper than being such a permissive and enabling Father. What I am suggesting is that our prayers keep us doubting God’s activity in our lives and the lives of others. We get so caught up in expecting things to painlessly happen immediately that we forget our view of time is different than God’s. Not to mention how we think things should take place. Prayers of hope and thanksgiving while taking in the long view of life, have a positive impact on our personal peace. As Paul said:
Philippians 4:6,7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I have recently been reminded that the prayer does not insure things will be fixed my way. Paul is saying that praying while also being thankful is therapeutic in itself. What I am suggesting is a way to be thankful in your prayers to get our hearts unstuck.
I would love to hear your comments and even stories of how you changed your prayers and the affects it had on you.