Deep Thoughts About Prayer

by Steve Cornell

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I go through seasons of prayer when I feel I am not being heard. During these times, I question my motives (Psalm 66:18; James 5:16). I know these are important considerations to effective prayer. At a deeper level, I wonder if my requests are according to God’s will (1 John 5:14). And then there is the matter of presumption vs. faith. Perhaps I am presuming on God in my request. Is this faith or presumption?

Like Jesus’ early disciples, I have times when I say, “Lord teach me to pray” (Luke 11:1). The well-known saying, “Prayer changes things” often turns out to be "Prayer changes me.” Yet, in the midst of my uncertainty, I cannot stop praying (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I remind myself of the words of the psalmist, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8). I want to be bold in my prayers for the advancement of God’s work. I have persevered in prayer through many uncertain seasons (Luke 18:1) and witnessed many amazing answers from God! But each new season offers deeper challenges.
Can you identify with my struggles? A friend facing a turning point in life recently shared some helpful thoughts about prayer. His thoughts are based on two verses:

“We do not know what to do, our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).
“But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge”(Psalm 141:8).

“I am among those who struggle against the fear of praying presumptuously, and the net effect is that I become a purveyor of timid prayers carefully calculated to save face in the event that my request conflicts with God’s mysterious will. I am like the fortune teller who couches her predictions so vaguely that almost any event could be construed as a fulfillment.”

“I still don’t know where to draw the line between faith and presumption, but I wonder if the verses above provide some clarity. It is one thing to acknowledge that I depend on God to meet my need, it is quite another to look to Him in reverent expectation, and it is still another for my prayers to cause others to look to Him in reverent expectation. Unlike mere acknowledgement of my dependence on God—which is often followed by my own effort, expectation looks to God through the lens of a specific need that is beyond my capacity to achieve.”

“If my prayers result in no sense of expectation, then certainly I have avoided presumption, but I may well have missed faith. And isn’t that what prayer is about anyway? The answer is not the point, but the means by which God proves Himself faithful and loving, and so wins my trust.”

“So the clock is ticking, the need remains. Lord, may it be said of us that ‘our eyes are upon You.’” (D. Hart)



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