Why Pray if I Can’t Have My Way?

When I was raising my three children, I’d ask them what they wanted for Christmas. If it was within my power…and budget…their heart’s desire would show up beneath the Christmas tree.

Birthdays were no exception. Ask and it shall be given to you.

“Make a Wish” became the norm in our household even though giving/receiving gifts isn’t my love language. I prefer acts of service. However, what parent doesn’t enjoy playing fairy godmother where their children are concerned?

My grown children plead the fifth. They’ve often said, “Just because I say I like something, DOESN’T mean I want it.” Then again, they didn’t have to ask for anything because I was the one askingWhat do you want?

It was no different when I was a child. Our family didn’t have excess income, but I was pretty much guaranteed (within reason) to get what I wanted twice a year. Christmas and my birthday.

My parents delighted in giving gifts. My dad loved photography, but he gave me the 35 millimeter camera. However, this display of sacrificial love and giving was passed onto my children and probably explains why….

I’m surprised or upset when I pray and ask God for something and He doesn’t give me what I want.

I justify being disgruntled and blaming God when he says, “NO or NOT NOW!”

“The purpose of prayer is to get ahold of God, not of the answer.” (Oswald Chambers)

My Christian mentor, Loretta C. told me. “Prayer prepares our hearts so we can meet with God and receive His Word.”

I know from experience her words are true. Prayer effects my attitude. Softens my heart. God’s Word becomes more clear, more applicable to my current circumstances. There are hallowed moments when the Lord speaks directly to my heart.

Prayer

Yes, prayer prepares our hearts, but can we be honest?

I’m still tempted to skip prayer (or rush through it) when I’m staring at a busy day. Besides, reading the Bible seems more tangible to me than praying.

For instance, I can tell you what I’ve learned after I’ve read John 17. Whereas prayer can feel like a one-way conversation where I’m either whining about life or dictating a laundry list that God “needs to do” to meet my needs.

When in fact, the only thing we really need has already been given. Have you received it?

images-3

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”

John 3:16 shows up on football players’ foreheads and the bottom of fast food cups. When I worked with the homeless, they recited that verse because they felt it was the prerequisite to a hot meal.

Only to say, God knows our needs. He’s already given us the greatest Gift…His Son, Jesus…who offers us abundant life.

“Wait a second!” Some folks might say. “I received the gift of Jesus and I still have needs.

I need that job. I want a spouse. I need a baby. I want a bigger house. I need my adult child to be rid of depression.

I need…I want…

Isn’t that how we tend to pray? Like beggars desperate for crumbs.

And then wonder why we come away from prayer as though we’ve drank a flat soda. No fizzle, no joy, no aha moments.

That’s why, it’s imperative to get ahold of God in our prayers, and not the answers. To prepare our hearts. Get our focus off ourselves. And that begins with worship.

Sing. Praise God for Who He is. Thank Him. Meditate on His wonders.

When our prayer life is wanting more of God…instead of the means to get what we want…we will see a difference in ourselves and our day.

Because then, we’ll have what we truly need. The abiding presence of the Triune God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unexpected Gifts

I was 13-years-old and horse-crazy.

The fact that we lived in a suburban house with a small backyard didn’t dissuade me from asking my dad if we could buy a horse.

“No.”

“Why?”

“Because you just don’t buy a horse. You also have to find a place to board the horse. Not to mention food and veterinary costs.”

End of subject.

Decades later, two horses graze on my rural property. I stand beside the black horse…my arm extended, hand open with an orange peace offering.

His nostrils flare when he sees the carrot. He brushes the palm of my hand with his moist, soft lips. My skin tickles; stirring memories of a young girl’s dream.

I don’t own these horses. They’re temporary guests, lodging here at the request of our neighbor. It’s a win-win. My neighbor won’t have to purchase hay. We don’t have to mow the field grass.

This gentleman’s agreement isn’t what I had in mind when I asked my father for a horse. But while I rinse dishes and watch these ambling horses from my kitchen window, I realize this is answered prayer from way back when.

Even though the answer looks different than I imagined.

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen God answer prayers as though He were thinking outside the box.

When I was a teenager, I wanted to become a schoolteacher. Who knew I’d homeschool my children? Homeschool was a foreign concept when I was young.

I also dreamt of being a writer. Who knew my words would appear on a website Blog and online magazines? There was no internet back in the day.

The Lord knew. He had a plan.

Silly me when I think a subject is closed just because it doesn’t happen according to my time table and expectations.  

My desire for a horse waned like many youthful dreams. However, the Lord has gone above and beyond to give me the desires of my heart. Mostly, He’s shown me that desiring Him above all things meets my deepest need, satisfies my greatest longing.  

Even in this moment…

When my hands are buried in warm dishwater and I’m grinning because the Red horse is rubbing his neck against the Oak tree like it was a scratch post,

I’m reminded of God’s goodness. And I praise Him for unexpected gifts which sweeten mortal days.

 

 

Share a time the Lord answered your prayer in a surprising way.

Photo by: Jonathan Foster