Many times we ask people for advice but we really do not want their input. What we really want is their stamp of approval on what we have already decided to do. Unfortunately, we can approach our spiritual life the same way. Many prayers are not seeking God’s guidance in our lives, but an attempt to talk God into giving us what we want.
First let me say that God hears and answers all prayers. (Psalm 55:17, Psalm 116:1-2, Psalm 166:1-2, 1 John 5:14-15) Sometimes the answer is yes, sometimes it’s no, sometimes it’s wait a while, sometimes it’s maybe, and so on.
The purpose of prayer is not to get what we want. The purpose is to develop a relationship with God. This relationship changes our way of thinking. We no longer look at prayer as a means to change our circumstances as much as it is a way to change ourselves. That’s heavy stuff. Prayer, coupled with Bible study, helps us form a deeper relationship with God. It is an avenue for his thoughts to become our thoughts.
While it is true that God hears all prayers, if the only time we pray is when we are at the end of our rope, expecting God to immediately deliver us from our circumstances is unreasonable.
Prayer doesn’t change circumstances as much as it changes us so we can cope with our circumstances. Many of us are secretly thinking “let my will be done” when we should be praying “thy will be done.” (Matthew 6:10) God is not as concerned about granting our every request as he is that through prayer we might come to discern his mind and become ONE with him. (John 17:21, 22)
Our prayer goal should be to align our will with God’s, not the other way around. Christ realized this when he prayed for “this cup to pass from me” regarding his crucifixion. That would have been his preference. However, ultimately he wanted God’s will to be done. (Matthew 26:39)
We all go through hard times. These experiences will either make us bitter or better. We will either become cynical or nobler, small minded or understanding, selfish or giving, negative or positive, self centered or God centered. Prayer is what enables us to be sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, financially poor but rich in the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit, having very little but possessing everything. (2 Corinthians 6:10)
Prayer and being close to God is why Habakkuk could say even though his crops failed and his cattle died he would still rejoice in the Lord. (Habakkuk 3:17-18) It’s why Job could say even if God killed him, he would still trust in God. (Job 13:15) It’s why Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego declared they knew God could deliver them, but even if God chose not to deliver them, they still weren’t going to bow down to some golden idol. (Daniel 3:16-18)
Saying prayer changes things is not as close to the truth as prayer changes us. Prayer changes the way we look at things. We can see the spiritual depth behind physical, mental, and emotional challenges.
When we truly trust God and turn our lives over to him we surrender our will to his. We want him to guide us because we know he has our best interests at heart. Only God knows how we can best glorify him. We want God’s will to be done in our lives and the lives of those we pray for. After all, we should want what is truly best for them, not what we think is best.
There is a lot of deep meaning behind the phrase “thy will be done.” It’s not just some token phrase at the end of The Lord’s Prayer or something we say lightly before the “amen!” When we pray “thy will be done” we need to mean it.