“I pray for what I want, but rarely for what I have,” admits Lisa-Jo Baker in her blog post How Not to Take Your Life For Granted.
Who among us hasn’t been guilt of that pattern? It seems that no matter how many times we hear the Lord’s Prayer, humans are prone to bow their heads only in times of need – begging for God to remove our circumstances, heal sickness, and change hearts.
Baker tells a moving story of living in Zimbabwe during a time of extreme drought, when prayers were many but rain was scarce. One dry day while the farm workers were eating soup, the heavens opened and rain began splattering their dinner everywhere.
The soup ricochets up at those dipping spoons down into it. Rough faces and beards are splattered green. Cucumber soup everywhere but in our mouths.
Rain. Long looked for rain pelts down from the clouds that are our only ceiling tonight. I prepare to make a dash for it – to shelter and warmth and the inside of the lodge.
But I am the only one to move.
A table of grown men carries on their meal as the rain falls down and the soup splashes up.
The thunder and force of the water is so loud that it crowds out any attempt at conversation.
But their actions speak louder than words and my father interprets them for me, ‘They won’t leave the rain, because they don’t want it to leave them.’
In the season of rain, they want more rain. And they are afraid if they get up it will be over.
Baker realizes that her life as a mom, endlessly picking up toys and washing dishes, is just what she prayed for in another season. Her busy life and full plate are answered prayers – and parts of her life she should continue to pray for even now.
Perhaps, she ruminates, in seasons of rain, we should want –and pray for– more rain.
In his Crosswalk article How to Pray Fresh Prayers, Joe McKeever notices that many prayers in Scripture show us that prayers are meant not merely to ask for change, but to:
- remind the Lord of who he is
- remind the Lord of what he has done
- they remind the Lord of what he has said (promised)
- remind the Lord of our present situation
- then, finally, remind the Lord of what we need
In Lord, Teach Us to Pray, Peter Beck writes:
Jesus understood the darkness of man's heart. He recognized the tendency of the human heart to bring God down to our level rather than to raise ourselves up to His. Thus, when He taught His disciples how to pray, He taught them to pray with God as the central focus of their prayers. This, He intimated, was to be the norm, not the exception. ‘Pray, then, in this way’ (Matthew 6:9). The remainder of the so-called ‘Lord's Prayer’ provides a guide, a model to be followed for true God-centered, God-saturated prayer. After all, this is not some cosmic Santa Claus with Whom we converse but the great I AM.
How many of truly pray with God as the center of our prayers? Not only should he be at the center, but Daniel Darling writes that we should cultivate prayer that starts with God.
Praying God-centered prayers takes some discipline and practice. I'll admit that this is a struggle for me. I often want to begin what I think are my own needs rather than letting my Father in Heaven shape my them. But there is something refreshing about beginning with God. It reminds us of the awesome miracle of access to the throne room of Heaven, purchased at great price by Christ on the cross. It reminds me that God takes great delight in hearing my prayers and meeting my needs, needs he knows well before I know them. It comforts me to realize that I do, indeed, have a Father in Heaven with a hallowed name.
How does your prayer life need work? Do you pray for rain in seasons of rain? Is God the center of your prayers? Do your prayers begin in your own mind, or with recognition of the Lord? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Debbie Holloway is the Family Life Editor at Crosswalk.com
Publication date: March 12, 2015