What if I get it wrong? I know I’ve wondered that about my prayers at times. Am I praying for the right things? Do I even want to pray?
But I suspect we all face that same question when we pray at times. We wish we could stop worrying about getting it right and start praying with confidence for what we know God wants.
But how do we know what God wants? And so the worrying begins.
I’ve written about our own struggles with this question What If God Wants Me to Fail? and Is What You’re Attempting for God Too Big to Fail? My conclusion was that we often foolishly try to take God’s responsibility onto ourselves.
And fail miserably.
How can we stop worrying and start praying with confidence? I think it begins with recognizing that whatever is not of faith is sin. And worry is definitely not of faith. So whatever path leaves us worrying is most definitely not of God. Our first prayer should be one of forgiveness for not walking by faith.
The essence of walking by faith is our adamant insistence on acting as if everything God has said is true. Everything.
Try these six steps to praying with confidence:
- Pray for the Obvious. So often we spend so much energy trying to figure out how to pray for what God has left unclear, that we ignore what He has made abundantly clear. Scripture is full of counsel about what we should be praying for — God’s glory, His Kingdom coming in its fullness, His will being done on earth as it is in heaven, etc. When you don’t know what to pray, start praying for what you know. In his excellent book, Lifted by Angels: The Presence and Power of Our Heavenly Guides and Guardians, my friend Joel J. Miller rightly notes that angels must shake their heads as we dither with trivial, temporal requests while eternal blessings go unrequested and unclaimed. (My review of his book here.)
- Pray for God’s Promises. There are many things God has promised he would do — supply our needs, forgive our sins, bless His word — the list is pretty long. We can pray with confidence when asking for things that He has already promised to do. For reasons only known most fully to Himself, He asks us to ask Him for what He has already promised He will do.
- Pray with Thanksgiving. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6) Another clear command from God to present anything to Him in the context of our grateful hearts. God seems to give a lot of latitude in these grey areas of prayer provided we come to him in gratitude and not greed.
- Pray without Perfection. Prayer is a messy business. As John Piper says, prayer is not a domestic intercom, but a war-time walkie-talkie. Imagine the fate of a soldier in the midst of heated battle who waits until conditions are perfect before firing a shot. Not good. For the dead soldier or for us. If we wait until we’re sure we’ve got it all right, we’ll never pray. Not with confidence anyways. The best part is that God has installed a “safety” who guides the prayer bullets we fire to the destination He intends. Amazing really. Even if we get the prayer wrong on our end, God reshapes it to fit His will.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:26-27)
- Pray with What Light You Have. Former Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfield said, “You go to war with the army you have — not the army you might want or wish to have at a later time.” That’s true in prayer, as well. If we wait until we know in full, we’ll never even pray in part. “For I know in part, then I shall know fully.” (1 Cor. 13:12) So often we refuse to take the next step with confidence until we know step 73. But God doesn’t work that way. That’s why He is God and we are not. If we’re not willing to look a little foolish, we won’t be able to truly walk by faith.
- Walk with What Light You Have. It’s not enough to pray. You must act. Faith without works is like, as the late Rich Mullins put it, a screen door on a submarine. The priests had to step into Jordan before God would part the waters. After you pray with the light you have, you must move forward. Trust that God, who searches the hearts of all those who fear Him, will direct your paths as He has promised. “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” (Prov. 3:5-6)
The only prayers God has promised to ignore?
So stop worrying and start praying with the confidence that we simply cannot mess God up — no matter how hard we may try.
What step did you find most helpful? What would you add to help us all live and pray with more abundant faith?