What kind of things is it okay to pray about?
Let me be specific. Is it okay to pray that my copier won’t jam when I’m trying to copy worship songs on Sunday morning during practice? (This is not a hypothetical situation.) Isn’t asking God for that kind of mundane prayer request turning God into a genie there to fulfill my wishes? Surely that’s the kind of prayer requests James was talking about when he said, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions,” right? God wouldn’t want you to pray about such inconsequential, selfish things as a copier, would he?
Actually, yes – I think he does. Listen to how Jesus describes God’s relationship with us in prayer in Matthew 7:7-11:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
I was blessed with great parents. No, they didn’t give me everything I wanted or asked for. But they never told me to stay away from them and not ask! And if imperfect earthly parents can still have a heart of openness and eagerness to hear their son’s childish requests…don’t you think our heavenly Father delights to hear everything that is on our hearts?
You see, it’s easy to make a functional divide in your life between the things you can do on your own (copy worship songs, manage your household for the day, find a parking spot downtown) and the things you need God for (the “spiritual” things like witnessing, Bible reading, worship). But the truth is there’s no divide: we are dependent on God in every area of life, even down to the most mundane details. And when we think God doesn’t want us to pray about where we park or a broken copier, we shut God out of the majority of our day.
In John 15:7, Jesus says, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Paul Miller, commenting on this verse in his book The Praying Life, says, “One of the best ways to learn how to abide is to ask anything” (p.138). No, God is not a cosmic butler waiting to fulfill our every whim. But prayer is not only about asking God to do things for us; it is also about relating to him as our Father through the details of ordinary life. When I pray that the copier won’t jam, I don’t have the guarantee that God will answer my prayer with a yes every time. But I am relating to my heavenly Father and acknowledging that, even in the mundane, there are things beyond my control. God may let the copier jam to give me the gift of cheerfulness beyond my circumstances. He may also be using my cheerfulness as a witness to someone else at church that morning. Or he may work a miracle and make the copier work right for once. (Which is what happened last Sunday.) My call is not to figure out what God is doing in any given moment or why he might answer my prayer a certain way. I’m simply to talk to my sovereign Lord who is my heavenly Father, because in every moment there are things I have no power to control.
Child of God, don’t put limits on what you can pray to your Father about. Abide in the love of God by asking anything. And that really means anything.