There is a fine, but important, line between what we are praying for and who we are praying to.
Prayer is an exercise in trust. A conversation between two entities in relationship with one another. What we ask in prayer matters very little compared to whom we are asking.
Aiming Our Prayers
Unfortunately, that fine line has become blurry for many modern Christians. Rather than pray to God about our circumstances, we are praying to our circumstances.
What I mean is that our prayers are aimed at our circumstances. Our hope is in what happens next. We are praying that things will change, that our circumstances will be moved and that movement will make everything better.
In short, we are trusting in the change in circumstances. We might slap God’s name on it, but really we are desperate for our circumstances to change and that is the aim of our prayers.
God becomes a means to an end. We get it backward. He is the intermediary, but what we are really there for is a change in circumstance. That is our ultimate hope, our true aim.
When I was in college and desperately prayed for a miraculous grade, I was not there to talk to God. I was there because I wanted to get a grade I didn’t deserve. I was there looking for a shortcut. I left God behind as soon as I left the room where the test took place.
I’m not saying we should stop praying for things. I’m just suggesting we be very careful, very aware, about that thin line between what we are praying for and who we are praying to.
The way we do this is by handing our circumstances to God. Not so that he can manipulate them to what we want, but so that he might do with them what he wills and use them how he desires. Our prayers should include more trust. Trust that God is doing something in our confusion.
We ought to pray for understanding, for perception. We ought to pray for the opportunity to make our choices, for boldness and clarity. We ought to pray for the redemption of our character more than we pray for the redemption of our circumstances.
God’s work in us is internal, first and foremost. We are in relationship with him. And prayer is the foundation of that relationship. How would you feel if your friend or spouse spent their entire time asking you to fix their problems without ever listening to what you have to say?
When we think about our troubles with prayer, we often think about how it isn’t “working” – we aren’t getting what we want. We are missing the point and the opportunity of communion with God. An opportunity to gain perspective.