I’ve often avoided things that I couldn’t automatically do well. I was uncomfortable with failure, embarassed over inadequacy. As a result, I have a nice list of things I actually can’t do at all…just because I was afraid to do them and not do them perfectly.
I realized some time back that this mentality transfered over into my faith along the way.
I have been hesitant to share with others when I thought God might be leading me to do something. What if it never came to fruition?
I’ve been afraid to pray prayers out loud or even alone that were at all specific, resting instead in the safe prayer of “God, let your will be done”.
I think that deep down I believed I might cause others to view God as less than who He says He is if He didn’t come through how I hoped. I worried I might damage my testimony or limit His influence in the world if He didn’t answer in the way people would expect. I might embarass Him, expose Him as a fraud, cause others to doubt Him, or give myself reason to question Him. Selfishly, I was probably also worried I’d appear foolish.
I know, ridiculous…but true.
I never would have owned those thoughts at the time, but they are certainly the position from which I acted.
Even as God has softened my hard edges and taught me to trust His goodness, this has remained an area of difficulty. It’s not difficult to believe He is capable of doing absolutely anything He decides to. And I’m increasingly able to believe He is truly good in all His ways. However, I do still struggle with finding that balance between praying expectantly and full of faith, while acknowledging that His ways are not my ways and His thoughts are not my thoughts.
Even still, I know from scripture that I’m admonished to pray. I know from scripture that my prayers have the ability to effect the events of my life and the lives of others. We could get into debates about God’s sovereignty and foreordained events, but honestly, they don’t matter. I may not understand all of the mysteries of God, free will, and sovereignty…but I do understand that I’ve been instructed to pray, and I’ve been given examples of prayers “that avail much”.
“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” (James 5:16-18 ESV)
I think I’m learning that at the end of the day, every prayer ought to be filtered through “your will be done”. But as a means of building our faith and increasing our opportunity to praise Him for His faithfulness, God invites us to ask boldly for the things we think we need. He may very well say no in His mercy towards us. But when I think of the times He has said “yes”, or graciously shown me the reason for His “no”, they are some of the most intimate and significant times I’ve experienced with the Lord.
I would have missed them had I neglected to present my requests to Him.
I love how R.C. Sproul describes it in “Now That’s a Good Question”…
The Spirit himself, who helps us to pray, inspired the prayers that are recorded in the Psalms. When I read the Psalms, I read intercession and I read supplication, but overwhelmingly what I read is a preoccupation with adoration, with thanksgiving, and with confession.
Take those elements of prayer, and what happens to a person who learns how to adore God? That person is changed. What happens to a person who learns how to express his gratitude to God? That person will now become more and more aware of the hand of Providence in his life and will grow in his sense of gratitude toward God. What happens to the person who spends time confessing his sins? He keeps in front of his mind the holiness of God and the necessity of keeping short accounts with God.
I may not understand all that prayer entails, but I’m so grateful that the God of the universe has invited me to present my requests to Him. I’m even more grateful that at times, He allows me to see the results of those prayers. He does not have to do either of these things, but is gracious in His love for us!