If God Knows Our Every Need, Why Does He Tell Us To Pray?

Clasped hands on troubled man

Most of us don’t like to humble ourselves. At least I don’t like to. And prayer is an act of humility. Prayer is an act of weakness. When we pray we admit to God that we desperately need help. That we’re weak and needy and not in control of all things. That we are not self-sufficient.

But God is attracted to this act of humility. So in one Peter 5:6-7 he tells us:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

We humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God.”  In other words prayer acknowledges that God is sovereign and controls all things. We bow before his sovereignty. We acknowledge that God rules but his mighty hand and we can’t control a single thing in and of ourselves.

Prayer waits for “the proper time” for God to lift us up.  Waiting for God is humbling for again, we acknowledge that we can’t change anything and must wait for God to.  We must patiently wait for the One who knows the end from the beginning, the infinitely wise one, who knows the absolute perfect time to come riding in to rescue us or supply our need.  He knows the perfect time to answer our prayers. Our affliction won’t last one second longer than he determines.

God tells us to cast all our anxieties on him. Why must we tell God our cares when he already knows them? Because asking is an act of humility, and since God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5), prayer puts us in the position to receive grace.  God so longs to pour out his grace on us he tells us the best way to receive it!

God tells us to cast or anxieties on him “because he cares for you.” When we pray it’s important to remind ourselves that God, the creator of the galaxies, the sustainer of heaven and earth, is deeply concerned for us – individually. I used to think God was so busy running the universe he didn’t have time for my “petty” needs. But I found out that God loves and cares deeply about his children individually.  He knows us by name.  He knows every hair on our heads.  So pray because God cares about you and your anxieties and needs.  If he feeds the sparrows of the field and the ravens that cry out, how much more will he hear the cries of his precious blood-bought children?

Don’t be proud. Don’t try to tough it out and get through life on your own. Humble under the hand of the Almighty who is tenderhearted, sympathetic and generous, and waiting to pour out grace. Cast your anxieties on him and he will lift you up at the proper time.

Why Doesn’t God Answer Prayer The Way I Want?

Blond Boy Crying

Kids have a way of making us consider life and God in a way we’ve often forgotten. It’s so easy to “out grow” the simple but profound questions of childhood. Not long ago I was putting my daughters to bed and we had just such a conversation. (Of course it was at bedtime; they always happen at bedtime.) She’d been working hard at learning math without the ease she wanted, and it caused a theological dilemma.

“Dad, what’s it called when God just does something, like make someone better when they’re sick?”

“A miracle.”

“Yeah! Why isn’t it always like that? Why can’t I pray and then just know math? Sometimes I pray and nothing happens.”

Well then. My eight-year-old put her little finger on a question that will likely stick with her for all of life. It’s the kind of question that can’t be ignored and about which we can’t be apathetic. It’s a question I ask all the time, and it drives people to God or away from Him. Why isn’t God answering my prayer the way I want?

I used to work in retail, and just about every day I would see parents with out of control kids. The child would be running around, yelling, generally acting the fool, and what would the parents do? “If you don’t stop that we’re not getting this toy!” “If you keep that up there will be no French fries for lunch!” What would happen next? The child would, of course, not stop. The parent would, inevitably, buy the toy or the French fries anyhow. They simply couldn’t say “no” to their kids.

In fact, that’s why their kids were out of control. They got whatever they wanted. They could manipulate, strong arm, and generally dominate their parents. One strategic temper tantrum and that Barbie doll was theirs. The kids were in charge.

And that’s what we would be like if God gave us everything we wanted. We would be the spoiled brats kicking and screaming and demanding that God make our lives easy. (A lot of times we act like this even though He doesn’t give us all we want.) And like the spoiled kids we would be worse off for it. We’d be unhealthy. We’d be ungrateful. Just as children don’t know what’s best for them and need parents to provide, so we don’t know what’s best for us and need God. We only know what feels good right now, not what is healthiest, happiest, and most beneficial for all of life.

If we got what we wanted when we wanted it every time we would never learn faith. We would never learn patience. We would never learn diligence and hard work. We would never learn obedience of any kind. It’s easy to think life would be better if we got all we wanted. What that perspective fails to recognize is that it makes us God. To make a demand of God and have it fulfilled is to be in charge of Him. Do we really want a God we can be Lord over? I don’t. I’d screw that up so badly. And so would you.

The Kind of Complaint That’s Pleasing To God

COMPLAIN

I recently had the privilege of speaking to a church in Wales on the topic of thankfulness.

My friend Pete, the pastor of the church told me it was good that I preached on being thankful because he said of the UK, “We’re a nation of professional moaners.” A UK citizen asked the following on Yahoo.Answers: “I’m British right, but I’m getting tired of people in this country moaning & complaining all the time. Why is that?” So maybe they do tend to moan and complain a lot.

But I would submit that all of us – not just Brits – have a tendency to grumble and complain. We regularly mutter things like, “It is way too hot today,” “I can’t believe I have to do this miserable job,” “This traffic is ridiculous,” “This is the most boring class in the universe,” …you get the idea. But we are especially tempted to complain and grumble when we go through hard times and suffering.

Yet Scripture tells us it’s a sin to complain. 1 CO 10:9-10 says:

“We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer.”

And in Philippians 2:14 God commands:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing.

And Numbers 14 says that when we grumble it is against God:

“How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me.” NU 14:27

Think about it – when we grumble because it’s raining or too hot, we grumble against the one who creates the weather. When we grouse about our circumstances or pain, we do it against the sovereign, wise and infinitely loving One who designs even our hardships and afflictions for our ultimate good. Yet the Bible tells us there is an acceptable kind of “complaint.” Listen to David:

With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him. PS 142:1-2

David wrote this when he was hiding in a cave from Saul, who wanted to kill him. David certainly could have complained to the soldiers who were with him or grumbled to himself. “I can’t believe this madman’s trying to kill me after all I did for him. I can’t believe I have to hide in a cave. I rescued Israel from Goliath and the Philistines and this is the thanks I get.” But instead he turned to God. He cried out and pleaded for mercy. He poured out his “complaint” and told his troubles to God.

It’s ok – no, more than ok – it is good to pour out our struggles before God. We can tell him how hard things are, or how sad we feel. That we don’t understand. We can ask him why this is happening. We can tell him how much we’re hurting, which is what David did in Ps 38:2-8:

For your arrows have sunk into me,
and your hand has come down on me.
There is no soundness in my flesh
because of your indignation;
there is no health in my bones
because of my sin.
For my iniquities have gone over my head;
like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.
My wounds stink and fester
because of my foolishness,
I am utterly bowed down and prostrate;
all the day I go about mourning.
For my sides are filled with burning,
and there is no soundness in my flesh.
I am feeble and crushed;
I groan because of the tumult of my heart.

God didn’t say, “Buck up David and quit your bellyaching!” God was happy to hear David’s “complaint,” even though God knew full well that David was hurting. God knows every hair on our heads and every twinge of pain we feel. But God didn’t say “David, why are you telling me all this when I already know it?” He gladly heard David’s complaint, and God wants us to pour out our hearts to him. In 1 Peter 5:6-7 he says:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

When we cast our cares on God, we humble ourselves and honor God, by acknowledging our complete need of him and his power to change our situation. We also honor God by saying that despite our circumstances, we believe he is good and he cares for us.

So draw near to God in your affliction. Pour out your complaint before him. Cast your cares on him. Tell the Lord how much you need his help and power. He won’t despise your moans and groans, but will hear with compassion and sympathy and pour out his grace to help in time of need.

Asking God For Too Much? Maybe You’re Asking For Too Little.

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Believers regularly ask God to do great things.  Things that seem impossible.  Like saving certain people who seem light years away from the kingdom.  Or providing when we can’t see any possible way. Most of us even pray for miracles at times.

The only thing is, we often ask for too little.  We should ask God for great things, especially if they will bring him glory.

In Psalm 81:10 God says:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

God says to his people, “Don’t forget who I am – the LORD – the Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth. I own all things and command all things. Whatever I say, goes. I speak and it happens.

Then he says, “I am…your God.” And you are the sheep of my pasture.  I’ve made a covenant with you to be your God. I have a personal interest in you.

Not only am I the LORD and your God, I brought you up out of the land of Egypt. I redeemed you.  Bought you.  I did the impossible to save you.  Broke the back of the most powerful nation on earth and freed you from the cruel grip of Pharaoh. I saved you, parted the Red Sea when there was no way of escape, wiped out your enemies, kept you safe, and provided for you in the desert. And I brought yo inuto a land flowing with milk and honey.

SO….OPEN YOUR MOUTH WIDE, AND I WILL FILL IT. Ask me for big things. Open your mouth as wide as you can – I can handle that. Remember I am your God who redeemed you. If I gave my Son for you do you think I’ll hold back lesser things? You’re not asking for things that are too big. You’re asking for things that are too small.

A mom in our church recently told me her son is doing a summer internship with a company a few hours away, and every single intern had already booked apartments and hooked up with roommates. An apartment came available, but her son couldn’t possibly afford it alone, and there were no more interns to ask to share it. The mom requested prayer that God would provide a roommate. A young lady in our church got back to her and said, “I’m going to pray that God would provide a CHRISTIAN roommate.” The mom told me she was convicted by the young lady’s faith. The mom hadn’t even thought to ask for a Christian roommate. The landscape for roommates had been so bleak she was just hoping for ANY roommate.

You know what’s coming, right? Someone – yes, a previously unlisted intern – posted in the company Facebook page: “I need a roommate and a place to worship.” God answered the young lady’s prayer! He provided not just a roommate, but a Christian roommate. Open your mouth wide and I will fill it!

Our God is rich and generous. He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph 3:20).  So ask him for great things. And when you think your request is as big as you can ask, make it even bigger. Open your mouth even wider. We can’t ask too much from the one who redeemed us by the blood of his Son. We can ask too little, but never too much.

The Rhythm Of Thanks And Prayer

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Recently someone told me they had decided to quit asking God for things more than once. “He’s heard me. He knows what I want. I don’t want to keep bugging him. So I’ll ask him once then just keep thanking him that he’s going to answer my prayer. But I’m not going to keep asking over and over for the same thing.”

God is definitely blessed by our thankfulness. And considering all he’s done for us in Christ, it’s only right that we overflow with thanks to him. In Colossians 2:7 Paul tells us to walk in Christ “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Psalm 100:4 tells us

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Someone once said that as we are “entering” God’s gates and courts, we should do so with thanks and praise, before we start asking him for things. Although I don’t believe Scripture requires us to thank God before making requests, in general I try to thank him before I lay my petitions before him. Usually my morning devotions consist of some Bible intake first, then thanking God for things – often writing them down in a journal, then bringing my requests. It is so good to remind myself that God has already blessed me in a myriad of ways. I believe thankfulness expresses humility and is a good reminder that all I have is a gift from him.

But God also wants us to ask him for things. Even if we ask him again and again. He told the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 to encourage us that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” He tells us in 1 Thess 5:17:

pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The Psalms are filled with people crying out to God again and again, like in Psalm 88:

Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you. (9)

But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you. (13)

God tells us to practice the rhythm of thanksgiving and prayer. Psalm 50 tells us:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

God says give me a sacrifice of thanks. Perform your vows to me – promises made when in trouble that if God delivered them, they’d praise and thank him. Then God says, call upon me in the day of trouble – bring your needs to me. Then I will deliver me and you shall glorify me with even more thanks and praise.

This is the rhythm of thanks and petition: Offer thanks, call upon me, I answer, you thank me again.

Php 4:6-7 says the rhythm of prayer and thanks is the antidote to anxiety:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Pray. Make supplications with thanksgiving. Make your requests known to God. Keep doing that. Fight your temptation to worry that way. And as you practice the rhythm of thanks and prayer, God’s peace will guard your heart and mind.

If you haven’t thanked your heavenly Father for anything yet today, why not take a few minutes right now and offer some thanks to him?

Scripture Teaches Us How To Speak

baby

At ten months old, my son Elliot has a small vocabulary. His contribution to the household conversation is limited to a couple of consonants and one vowel, combined, recombined, and repeated. His most advanced word to date is “Gack,” which may mean, “duck,” “Uncle Joe,” or “Help me, I have pureed green beans up my nose.”

Lord willing, Elliot will eventually learn to distinguish his Uncle Joe from a duck. But right now his perception of the world is limited by his lack of words. He cannot describe his world or his experience. He cannot enter into conversation with us. Learning to speak will give him categories of thought and perception that make all of life fit together and make sense. Words – true, accurate words – define reality.

Do you realize that Scripture is teaching you to speak? I’m not making a comment on the size of your vocabulary. I’m talking about words as a measure of our ability to understand and describe ultimate reality, and enter into conversation with the Author of reality. Though we are capable of speaking thousands of words a day, if our words are not shaped by the words of the God who speaks, molded by the story of the Word who became flesh, then they are empty words. But God, through Scripture, is teaching us to talk.

Think of it like this. As a small child, you had no idea of the connection between the word “hot” and the experience of fingers seared by a stove burner. Slowly, through repeated parental warnings –“No touch! Hot! Hot!” – and the painful lessons of experience, you came to understand reality. Likewise we all, without God’s instruction, have no conception of the reality behind words like “sin” or “rebellion.” We see no connection between the four-letter word that escapes during the traffic jam, and the dissatisfaction and distress that festers in our soul while we wait. But slowly, patiently, God teaches us to refrain from anger (Psa. 37:8), and to wait on the Lord, committing our way to him (Psa. 37:5, 7). We learn true words that accurately define our inner world and our outer world, and we learn to enter into dialogue about both with the God who speaks. In short, we learn to talk.

Until God speaks, we have only vague notions of his existence – and even these we twist and pervert to suit our own fancies. We don’t know who we are until God tells us. We don’t know what health or what depravity look like until God defines them for us. And, like infants, we are slow and hesitant to learn to speak accurately. But Scripture teaches us to speak. It gives us names – true names, accurate names, names not of our own invention but of God’s revelation – by which we can call upon God: Creator, Lord, Almighty, Father. It teaches us to see ourselves accurately: simultaneously sinner, sufferer, and (in Christ) saint. And it teaches us to respond rightly to our circumstances: not with religious ideas or human-centered moral exhortations, but by relating to the God who speaks, through Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh and crucified so we can call upon God as Father.

This is what sanity looks like, what maturity sounds like: a conversation between a redeemed soul and God himself. Christ, have mercy. Father, deliver me. To you, O Lord, I give thanks with my whole heart. So open the God’s word, and call upon Jesus, the living Word. Listen to the One who speaks. And join the conversation.

Photo by Ashton

Don’t Leave That Treasure Buried!

treasure

Buried treasure. X marks the spot. Pirate’s chests and coded maps. This is the stuff kids dream about! But if you’ve been reading the headlines (here and here), you know long lost caches of gold coins are occasionally more than a childhood fantasy. Last year a couple in California was strolling along their property when they noticed some half-buried rusty cans. They started digging. Turns out these weren’t your average rusty Campbell’s soup containers. The eight cans contained over 1,400 US gold coins dating from 1847 to 1894. The mere face value of the coins is $28,000, but due to their age they could sell for up to $10 million. That’s right. This couple had $10 million lying in the dirt in their back yard.

Now unless you live in northern California and have been stepping over a certain pile of half-buried canisters every time you walk the dog, I wouldn’t recommend rushing off to buy your metal detector just yet.  Instead, let’s imagine a slightly different scenario. You have just bought your own property in former gold rush country. You’re not that familiar with the land, so you hire a surveyor to mark your property boundaries and tell you what you have. As it turns out, you hired the Honest Abe of surveyors. His written report tells you that you have 1.74 acres of land and oh, by the way, there are eight cans of antique golden coins buried beside the third cactus on the left. Honest Abe says they’re probably worth another $10 million, and since he has an allergy to high quantities of gold coins he didn’t touch them. They’re sit sitting there waiting for you. Grab your shovel.

Except you don’t. You’re too busy to dig up the treasure. It’s tax season so you’ve got to fill out your 1040. And it’s almost March Madness, and you have a bracket to fill out – so much to do! Or maybe you don’t believe your surveyor. There’s not really a $10 million cache of gold on my property, you think to yourself. That’s too good to be true! And so the gold sits there, unclaimed and unused.

All right, so what’s the point of all this? Even though I’m pretty sure none of you have buried treasure hidden on your property (although if you do, remember I told you first), every single Christian has been given better promises than even mountains of gold-coin filled cans. We have promises like these:

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”(John 14:13-14)

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Listen to what John Calvin says about the gift of prayer: “To know God as the master and bestower of all good things, who invites us to request them of him, and still not go to him and not ask of him – this would be of as little profit as for a man to neglect a treasure, buried and hidden in the earth, after it had been pointed out to him” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, III.xx.1)

Now I know there’s a danger here. By the way I told my imaginary story I could leave you feeling condemned for not praying due to busyness or unbelief. That’s not my intention at all. Prayer is never the grounds for our acceptance for God. If you’re a Christian and barely prayed at all last week, you are no less acceptable before God than the guy who fasted and prayed for 24 hours straight. We have access to God always and only through the death and resurrection of Jesus. (And incidentally, there’s nowhere in Scripture says a 24-hour prayer vigil is intrinsically more pleasing to God than a 30 second “Help me!”) So banish all condemnation from your mind!

Instead, let this thought encourage you: there’s more waiting for you in God. More joy. More power of the Spirit. More wisdom. More opportunities to share the gospel fruitfully. More comfort in trials, strength in weakness, peace in chaos. You have not even come close to exhausting the riches contained in just one of these promises. There’s more. So ask for it!

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:19-20)

Photo by David, Bergin, Emmett, and Elliot.

The Most Underrated Spiritual Discipline

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We all know that we’re supposed to pray. We all have our own prayer “tactics”, such as prayer lists, prayer apps, prayer walks, prayer meetings, praying out loud, writing down our prayers, writing down the prayers we say out loud, and saying out loud prayers which have been written down.

In spite of all these tactics, I believe prayer is THE MOST underrated spiritual discipline. The simple fact is, I take prayer for granted. Because Christ has opened the way into the Holy Places, I can pray freely at any time of day. I can pray in the car, as I’m working, and while I’m watching my kids. Being able to pray so freely is an incredible, wonderful blessing. I think, however, that the freeness with which I can pray causes me to take prayer for granted.

Think for a moment of all that takes place when I pray.

GOD HEARS

But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. (Psalm 4:3)

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (Psalm 5:3)

Holy smokes! When I pray, the Lord himself, Yahweh, the King of Kings, the commander of the armies of Heaven, hears me! The God who crushed the Egyptian army and humiliated the prophets of Baal, hears when I call to him. I’m not speaking empty words into a void. I’m not simply talking to myself. This is not the power of positive speaking. When I call, God hears.

GOD STRENGTHENS

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17-18)

Not only does God hear me when I pray, but he also strengthens me. In the midst of affliction, when I barely have the strength to call out to God, he hears me and strengthens me. He imparts real spiritual, emotional, and even physical strength to me. Prayer connects me to the infinite strength of God.

GOD BLESSES

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! (Matthew 7:11)

God is eager to bless me. Just as I am eager to give good gifts to my kids, God is eager to give good gifts to me. When I pray, God unleashes blessings into my life. I realize that sounds terribly Joel Osteen-ish, but it’s not. It’s God’s word. God will give me good things when I pray to him. He will bless me and pour out his incredible riches into my life.

GOD ACTS

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:16-18)

This passage is mean to encourage us that God does real, incredible things in response to my prayers. When Elijah prayed, God actually altered weather patterns! When I pray, God does real, amazing, incredible things. He changes circumstances. He softens hearts. He intervenes with financial provision. He brings reconciliation. Prayer brings the Almighty God into the mundane details of my life.

Given all the astonishing things that happen when I pray, why do I treat prayer so lightly?

Destroying Our Boring, Unimaginative Prayer Lists

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Prayer lists are useful tools. They help me remember to pray for things I would normally forget. Every so often, usually after reading an inspiring book on prayer, I get on a prayer list kick. I resolve to be more diligent and faithful in prayer. To be like Paul, who was always remembering people in his prayers. I’ll never forget to pray again, I say to myself as I scribble out my prayer list on a sheet of paper. I am definitely a fan of prayer lists.

Despite my affection for prayer lists, I tend to drift away from them. Sometimes it’s because I’m lazy, and I don’t feel like continually updating my prayer list. Other times it’s because I want to be more spontaneous in my prayer life. I don’t like being confined to what I have written on paper. But if I had to put my finger on it, I would say I tend to abandon prayer lists most frequently because my prayer lists are often boring and unimaginative. They are stale, like old, bland crackers. They read like recipes.

The reality is: my prayer lists are limited by my imagination. 

I pray for the salvation of family members, financial provision, patience with my children, and a host of other things I can easily imagine. If you looked at my prayer list, you wouldn’t be like, “Woah! Hold me back! You must think you’re John the Baptist or something, cause you got some crazy things you’re asking for here.” I don’t usually have any big, audacious, faith-stretching requests on my prayer lists.

Why is this the case? Why are my prayer lists so boring? Because I fail to take into account scriptures like Ephesians 3:20, which says:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…

This verse blows my boring prayer lists to bits. I don’t put much thought or passion into my prayer lists. They function like spiritual grocery lists: a checklist of various things I need. But this verse says that God is able to do far more abundantly than I can ask, or even think.

If I sat down and really thought about it, I could come up with some pretty big, important things to ask God. Things that I wouldn’t normally ask for because they are so…well, big. Things that are a definite stretch for my faith.

I pray for the salvation of my children. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would dramatically and powerfully get hold of each of my children. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can do incredible, powerful, life-shaking things for my children that I couldn’t even imagine! Do I believe this?

I pray for God’s provision for my family. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would provide enough for us to give a chunk of money away to someone in need. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can provide for my family in breathtaking, surprising, “holy smokes, God is in this place,” kinds of ways. Do I believe this?

I pray that God would deepen my love for him. If I’m being really bold and imaginative, I’ll pray that God would increase my love for His word, increase my love for my fellow Christians, and let me experience the reality of his presence every day. Ephesians 3:20 tells me that God can meet me and change me and work me over in ways I never could have dreamed!

I don’t think I should stop using prayer lists. I do think my prayer lists should be inspired and bold and imaginative. And I should approach my prayer with eager expectancy. I should expect God to blow away my expectations! I should expect God to give more than I ask.

I should expect God to surprise me.

Keep. On. Praying.

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:1-8)

In Jesus’ parable, the judge didn’t care about justice, nor the widow’s plight. He didn’t fear God or care what any man thought. Yet he responded to the widow’s persistence. Jesus’ point is not that we have to wear God out with our petitions till he finally caves in to stop us from bothering him. Jesus wants to encourage us that God DEEPLY CARES about his children who cry out to him. He IS listening. HOW MUCH MORE will God respond to our prayers than the judge to the widow. God is not delaying for no reason. He will come to our help speedily – though from our perspective it might not seem that way. But in his infinite wisdom, he won’t delay an answer for one second longer than necessary for our good.

So pray always and do not lose heart. You may have prayed for a loved one’s salvation for years and years and see no change yet. Don’t give up. Don’t stop praying.

There are some things I’m praying for that seem impossible from a human point of view.  I don’t know if they are God’s will, but I know that God could do what I ask if he so desires. Nothing is impossible for him. So until he makes his will clear to me, I’m going to keep asking again and again and again, though it seems like nothing is changing.

God’s answer to your prayers could be just around the corner. He may answer your 20 years of prayer today. Don’t think God doesn’t care or doesn’t hear just because nothing has changed yet. He hears your prayers (Ps 65:2; 77:1). The prayer of the upright is powerful and effective, though it may not feel powerful (James 5:16-18). Not one prayer is wasted. God hears our every sigh. He doesn’t tire of us asking, but wants us to bring our requests to him. If Jesus tells us to not lose heart, and pray always, it’s because he intends to answer our prayers.

So keep asking, keep thanking, keep hoping. Don’t give up.