Upon the recommendation of a good friend, I started working my way through a bible study book by Jennifer Kennedy Dean called “Live A Praying Life”. I’ve only completed the first week of this book and I already see that this will change the way I view prayer. As I have mentioned before in a previous blog, I think prayer is a topic of great mystery and depth that we will probably never completely tap. It’s a puzzle, and each new aspect we understand is a piece of the puzzle. When I read in the Bible that Moses walked with the Lord, or that other men and women of God were close to him by prayer, the desire in my heart burns to have that same intimacy in conversation.
One of the characteristics that I’ve struggled with over the years, particularly the last few, is how free will works in regards to prayer. How can God promise that whatever we ask for in his name is ours, and yet also give men the choice to serve him or not? That seems contradictory in a way. I labored in prayer over my marriage, believing that God would change my husband’s heart. Somewhere along the way though I began to realize that my husband got to choose whether to stay in a relationship with both God and me, no matter what or how hard I prayed for his heart to change. There are many life situations that fit into this though – whether someone will choose to follow Christ or not, whether they will give up destructive behaviors, etc. I could go on, and you probably currently have or had in the past a situation in your life where free will and prayer have seemed in conflict.
In “Live A Praying Life”, the author says, “What is God’s intent for prayer? The purpose of prayer is to release the power of God to accomplish the purposes of God. The purpose of prayer is to discover God’s will, not obligate Him to do mine; to reflect God’s mind, not change it. “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11) Could I learn, like Moses, to make my heart available for God’s purposes? Could I learn to trust His purposes more than my own perceptions?”
God gives free choice – period. But he also works the best in a situation where he gives that choice. My goal in prayer can’t be to try to convince God to do something – change a heart, move in a situation, etc., my motive in prayer should be to align my heart and will with God’s will. How sovereign would God be, if my prayers could change his mind? Obviously his view and understanding of any given situations far exceeds my limited perception.
This new understanding of God’s sovereignty helps me to trust him more. I’ll still ask him for things in prayer that involve other people’s choices, because that is part of the process of sharing my heart with him. David did that in the Psalms. If you read the Psalms though you’ll find that David worked through his feelings and by the end of what we see, his heart was in line with God’s heart. The main thrust of my prayers should be to take on God’s heart and will and desires instead of giving him a list of what I desire. This new outlook gives Psalm 37:4 a whole new meaning to me. “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The key of this verse isn’t for me to gain my heart’s desire, but for my heart to delight in God’s will so that my desires are the same as his and will reflect God’s mind.
Here I sit with another piece of the puzzle in my hand. I can make out a little more of the complete picture I’m working on. There are still parts of the picture that I’m unsure of, but I feel confident that over the years, I’ll find those pieces as well.