I’ve been fascinated by the idea of “prayer” since young. The idea of asking or influencing an all-powerful being to change the world on my behalf felt very… powerful. It’s not a “pious” answer, but I think for most people, that is still the main reason why we pray. We pray because we want this being, (the most powerful being we know), to change something or someone when we feel powerless to do so. Our understanding is this: we pray, and if God is willing, He will grant our request. He waves His hand, and voila – change is done. It’s like magic. We would never admit that in public, but for most of us, most of the time, we want God to do… magic.
For years, I had the same outlook about prayer. I believed (and still do) that God can and desires to do miracles, and prayed fervently. I prayed for friends and family to be healed. I prayed for God to change people’s hearts. I prayed for revival. I prayed for many “good causes.” And when the results didn’t come the way I expected, it was hard. God asks us to pray with faith and trust. And when such prayers went seemingly unanswered, it hurts. It felt like my trust was misplaced. Eventually, I burnt out because I just didn’t have enough energy to keep praying.
That was a key turning point. When I stopped pushing and asking, God’s answers came… but not in the form I expected. God started to show me that while my intentions were good, my prayers weren’t always in line with what God wanted. I assumed I knew how to pray… and God was telling me, I had no clue… 😛
In Christian circles, we kind of have a cookie-cutter approach to prayer. If someone is sick, pray for healing. If someone needs a job, pray for a job. If someone has a deep longing, agree with them in prayer. We assume we know what kind of request to make in each situation. This is the mindset God was challenging me about. He reminded me that He has an intricate plan for each person. As hard as it was to accept at times, God has allowed for each situation to come to pass. Before I assume anything and jump in to pray, I should really find out what His plan is, and not get in His way.
That completely changed how I prayed. And instead of me asking God to do something, God started asking me questions. When I was praying for someone’s health condition, God asked me about her daily routine. I found out that my friend had such a hectic schedule, her high stress level was part of the trigger. If she’s able to lower her stress level and have more rest, her health will improve. Rather than asking God to heal her physical ailments, I prayed that God will give her wisdom and help her simplify her life. God was answering her prayers, but she needed to change her lifestyle in order to see the results. Instead of giving her a magic pill, God wanted to help her develop a better life style for the long run.
It’s simple, really, What God was teaching me was to simply get His perspective on things. While it’s not as efficient because i can’t just jump right in and start praying like I used to, it has definitely helped me understand both God and human nature in a deeper way. Now, when I hear people’s requests and circumstances, it’s no longer a prayer list to me. I start to wonder what is God’s dream for them? Who did God create them to be? And how does God want to meet them in their current circumstances? My praying process is more a dialogue now than the soliloquy it was before. Prayer is no longer like magic to me… now I know the Magician and His secrets.