HOW NOT TO PRAY
A few years back, my old car developed a very obvious and obnoxious malady: whenever I started the engine in the morning, the belts would squeal… but not just a run-of-the-mill squeal; my engine would emit a high-pitched screech for all of my neighbors to hear as I drove past each house on my way to work. And almost every morning, I would pray that God in His mercy would put an end to my status as a noise-polluting pariah.
Then a funny thing happened. One day, it stopped. After countless months of whispering prayers, reluctantly cranking that car, and starting my shrill parade through the neighborhood, the squealing stopped and never returned. Sadly, though, I couldn’t tell you when that happened… because I didn’t even notice.
Although I had dared to ask the Almighty to address as trivial a concern as my noisy car, when He finally did, I apparently just took it for granted. I’m not sure how much time passed before it occurred to me that my engine was now quiet. That moment of realization was a sobering indictment of my prayer life, and reinforced two aspects of prayer to me.
For starters, how often do we view God as a cosmic butler — someone we ring whenever we have a need or desire and then silently dismiss? Yes, because He is a good and gracious Father, God wants to hear and answer your prayers (Luke 11:1-13), but He does so for His glory not just your comfort or convenience. Prayer is ultimately an expression of our absolute dependence on the Lord. As such, prayer is more about God changing us than us changing Him. As we persist in prayer, examine our motives, and seek to align our will with His (1 John 5:14-15), we can’t help but act when He provides us with opportunities and rejoice when we see Him move in our lives and others’.
The episode with my car also reminded me how important it is to keep track of not just prayer requests but also answered prayer. David was confident to face Goliath because he could recall all of the times God had enabled him to overcome previous threats (1 Samuel 17:37). As we record our requests, we also wait expectantly and patiently for God to respond in His perfect timing — whenever and whatever that response may be. Then, when the next challenge comes our way, we can approach our Father with even more certainty and faith.
And just like when we receive any significant gift in this life, sending a thank you note to the Giver is always appreciated (James 1:17). May we be a people who pray with humility, pray with confidence, and pray with gratitude.