My heart aches for God to do great things in our midst, to be glorified in our land and to change the circumstances of our broken world. What might it look like if God did these things? How would it feel to experience the fullness of life as He intended it?
These questions lead me to God: What is He doing around me? What is He wanting of me? How do I fit into His plan? I long for Him to speak to me about these things, yet I initiate the conversation.
Prayer is our personal communication with God; our thoughts, desires, dreams, praise, concerns, and worship. Through prayer, I get to know God, His character, personality, and vastness. God wants us to pray so we become more dependent on Him and trust Him more and more, just like a child (Luke 11:11-13). God does not just want our trust in Him to grow through prayer, He desires that our love for Him and our relationship with Him will deepen and grow.
When we ask for things in prayer, God often responds to those prayers. Jesus makes this clear when He exhorts us to ask, seek, and knock. (Luke 11:9-10). The Scriptures give many examples of God responding to the prayers of individuals. This encourages me to pray more boldly, seeking for God to work in ways only He can work. On my own, though, I have no right to ask God for anything. My sin should disqualify me from requesting anything from a holy God. But, if our faith is in Jesus, the Bible tells us that He is the reason our prayers are effective. Jesus stands as the “one mediator between God and men” (1Tim 2:5). Our prayers must be based on His authority as our mediator and aligned with His character.
John tells us that, “If we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:15). In 1 John 5:14, we learn that we must pray according to His will and this will often require humility on our part. We are instructed to not pray for our desires but to pray for God’s desires.
But how do I know what God desires? Many places in the Bible tell us what God desires and His directions are quite clear. In other areas of my life, when I am wondering if my desires are God’s desires, I am told to “ask Him” to make His desires clear to me.
Anything in our lives that displeases God will hinder our prayers. The psalmist explains, “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened” (Ps 66:18). When we sin, God urges us to use prayer to seek His forgiveness. We can use the words of 1 John 1:9 to guide us, “If we confess our sin He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
As I sort through all of this, I am brought back to my earlier questions and longings. I ask myself, “What if God doesn’t answer my prayers”? I am reminded that I join the company of many men whose prayers were not answered. Even Jesus at the end of his earthly journey asked God to “remove this cup” from Him. His humble response and submission to God’s will help me to accept “nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).