There is a dangerous idea that sometimes appears in Christian circles. If we are struggling with circumstances, someone, usually with good intentions, will ask us if we have prayed. Then they may suggest that we haven’t prayed “enough” or that maybe we haven’t prayed the “right” way.
We want to see results– immediate, dramatic, positive results. It’s what we expect from everything else in life; from the drive-thru fast food place, the vacation resort, weight loss program, graduation, manicure, even marriage. When results are not evident, or slow in coming, we think we can and must do something to speed up the process. We begin looking around for what else we can try– what else we “should have” done– to get the results we want. We even say to ourselves that God wants more from us before he will provide blessing or healing or a breakthrough.
But that’s not always the case. God makes everything good–IN HIS TIME. He has the power to bring about immediate change, but he frequently chooses to walk with us through the times of stress and shadows, when we can’t see the end from the beginning, and we are tempted to turn back or doubt. He doesn’t do this because he enjoys seeing us go through struggles, but because he knows that we learn to lean on him, to trust him, and to find our strength in him by traveling the narrow road.
Our prayers need to focus on God’s love and faithfulness. He knows our need, sees our situation, and hears our prayers. Our job it to know His word, look for his hand in our situation, and listen for his counsel as we trust him. We should not grow weary of praying, or give up in our efforts. But neither should we doubt God’s wisdom, or try to manipulate his timing with empty gestures or endless repetition.
Sometimes, we may find that God changes our desires, or opens our eyes to habits we need to change or worries we need to give over to him. Hear out those well-meaning folks–some of them may carry God’s wisdom. But in the end, our prayers– our life’s struggles and triumphs– are in God’s hands, not theirs. It’s not the quantity or the quality of your prayer that makes the difference. It’s the perfect love and timing of God.
Remember that even Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane– he prayed with so much intensity that he sweat blood drops. He prayed more than once that God might let the burden of death and separation pass from him. It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t pray “enough”, or that his prayers weren’t valid. It wasn’t that God didn’t listen or care about his own son. But God sent the assurance that Jesus needed to end his prayers with “Thy will be done.” So it should be with our prayers.