3 Surprising Things I Learned About Prayer
I’ve learned a lot about prayer from my eleven-year-old daughter. For instance, just the other night she told me that she asked God every day for months, what she would become when she grew up.
Talk about child-like faith. I don’t remember asking God about my future when I was eleven.
One night, she had a dream that God told her she would be a singer.
Just like that.
My daughter has always loved music, so I wasn’t surprised when she told me that. She told me that, once He answered that question, she stopped asking and began to pray for something else. Her requests are honest, clear, and simple. And she waits expectantly as though she knows God will answer her. I couldn’t have guessed how much I would learn from my kids.
STEPPING OUT ON FAITH
My first job out of college was an administrative job at a small Christian school. I loved that job, but as our family grew, I had to find another way to pay the bills. I decided to pursue a career in Human Resources to make use of my undergrad degree in Psychology. I attended job fair after interview for weeks. Against the advice of friends and family members, who urged me to keep my options open and consider everything, I narrowed down my search to the Federal Government. There was an agency close to my house, and I decided to ask God for a position there. For over a year, I sent out resumes and attended interviews. I was excited to finally get an interview for the job I prayed for but was disappointed when I wasn’t chosen.
HOW GOD ANSWERED MY PRAYER
Not long after we moved into our first house, I got another interview for the job I was praying for. On the day of the interview, I pulled up to the building with butterflies in my stomach. It was a beautiful day, and I was ready yet SO nervous. On my way to the building, I greeted an older woman who sat on a bench out front. She asked if I worked there, and I told her that I wanted to, and was on my way to an interview. She asked if she could pray with me, and though I was taken aback by her request (as we were on the premises of a Federal Government agency), I eagerly obliged. After she prayed with me, my nerves settled, and I proceeded inside the building.
I met with two women, supervisors over the position I was jockeying for. I used to dread interviews, you guys, and I was so nervous and SO SWEATY. There is nothing like sweating through a polyester suit. Ew! I answered each question with all the authenticity and professionalism I could muster. I was SO relieved when it was over. On my way out of the building, I passed the older woman I had prayed with. Interestingly, she looked through me as though she had never seen me before.
Once I got into my car, whatever confidence I had drained, and I was flooded with self-doubt. I SOBBED. Several days later, I was called back for a second interview.
And then–I got the job.
HIS WILL, NOT MINE
I worked at the agency for nearly five years until I had my third child and quit to stay at home (a story for another day). I met some beautiful human beings there who helped me to grow professionally and individually. During one of my performance reviews, my supervisor (rest her soul) confided that, though my review was positive, she saw me using my gifts in a more creative field than HR. It was at that job that God showed me more of my strengths and weaknesses and the way that He created me. I am so thankful for this part of my journey.
One time, God gave me the job that I asked Him for—not for my purpose but for His. He doesn’t always answer my prayers in the way I think He should. But even then, I can trust His character, and His promise to work everything out for my ultimate good (Romans 8:28). Little did I know how He planned to use that job to grow and stretch me, during good times and not-so-great. He placed people into my life and moved good friends away. Through that job, I came to know the God who can accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). And that job led me right into this season of stay-at-home motherhood–and now, homeschooling.
If you have ever wondered why it seems that God answers some prayers favorably and not others, I think you’ll find answers in the following lessons that I’ve learned about prayer myself.
3 SURPRISING LESSONS ABOUT PRAYER
1) You can ask God for exactly what you want.
I have to admit, there have been oh-so-many times I’ve second-guessed asking God for a specific job, a specific home, a specific relationship—because, what if the answer is no? What if God lets me down?
We live in a society that encourages us to keep our options open–don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.
Go on lots of dates before settling down with one person.
Apply to many schools before making a college choice.
Go on several interviews before choosing a job.
Visit all the home listings before making an offer on a new house.
Don’t get me wrong–it is always a great idea to seek the Lord and the wisdom of trusted people around us before making a decision, especially a major one.
But–let me ask you a question.
If I told you that you could have indisputable clarity on whom to marry, where to work, where to live, even what car to drive without spending hours, days, weeks, or months researching and striving, would you want that?
I believe we can bypass the stress that comes with trying to figure things out on our own when we submit our decisions to Him. We can rest in the knowledge that God cares about the things we are concerned about, that He has a plan for us, and that He will reveal that plan to us.
If I told you that you could have indisputable clarity on whom to marry, where to work, where to live, even what car to drive without spending hours, days, weeks, or months researching and striving, would you want that? Click To Tweet
What is the price of two sparrows–one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)
2) Motives matter.
It is totally okay to ask God for a spouse, a child, a job, a car, a house, or anything else that we can think of. The key is that our purpose on earth is to glorify God, not just consume what is around us for our own pleasure. God is our Father who loves us and He absolutely wants us to be happy. He created the Earth for us to enjoy. However, our prayers go awry when we desire the things we want more than we desire God himself.
I have prayed with wonky motives. I wanted a good, government job so that I could pursue my own goals without regard to the mission God had for me. He is so merciful that He gave me the job anyway. He is so patient that He allowed me to stay and learn and grow before moving me on.
You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. (James 4:2-3)our prayers go awry when we desire the things we want more than we desire God himself. Click To Tweet
3) God wants us to keep asking.
Sometimes we can ask for something once, and God will answer that prayer. Many times however, it will take more than one knock to open the door. God hears every prayer. But there is something that happens in the waiting–we get to practice our faith that He hears us, we trust that He wants what is best for us, and we lean on Him for strength in the space between where we are and what we are hoping for.
There is something that happens in the waiting--we get to practice our faith that He hears us, we trust that He wants what is best for us, and we lean on Him for strength in the space between where we are and what we are hoping for. Click To Tweet
I hope you are encouraged to pray with boldness, to examine your motives, and to keep asking, knocking, and seeking! Remember that–while God doesn’t always answer our prayers the way we hope–He still loves us and wants a relationship with us more than anything else.