Thursday, February 10, 2011

Thanks in Advance!

Several times lately the topic of prayer has either come up in conversation or just in my own meditation. Often the question from some, even believers, is why pray for certain outcomes if God is sovereign? After all, if God is sovereign, and His Will ultimately will be done, why do we pray about these things? What's the point?

As I think about this question, two answers pop in my head immediately. For one He tells us to pray and bring our requests to Him, so ultimately that should be enough. After all, the minute I start questioning God on the logistics of His requests then I may as well just ask for the position as creator of the universe and be done with it. However, that often isn't quite the answer that makes me feel completely satisfied with the subject.

The second reason that comes to mind summarizes why I generally pray, and that is to seek the Will of God. In prayer He can and may reveal His Will to us during our time together. My goal when I pray is not to seek the doing of my will, but to seek His Will, and ask how I can be involved in it. Read the passage below as it summarizes exactly what I feel:

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
  until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
 (Psalm 73:16-17 ESV)

We pray for discernment. Some request are easier to pray for in that way and some are more difficult. Sometimes as when asking discernment for a new job opportunity, or a new relationship, or choosing a mission field, it makes sense for us to pray that way. Sometimes, like when we start asking questions about suffering, it can be difficult as we seem to not seek to understand, but to change.

Though the ones I personally struggle with are prayers of healing, at least certain forms of it. Let me be clear, Biblically we are asked to do this, I understand. Likewise we are to pray with persistence and confidence. Not to say that we guarantee healing, but to pray knowing full well that He "can" heal if He wants to. I pray for healing but my prayers are more in the form of discernment. Paraphrasing they're often in the form of "God, if it's in Your Will, heal this individual. May Your glory be seen if this healing occurs, but if not, may You comfort the family and friends and Your love be seen."

Some would say I am not praying with belief in the healing power of Jesus' name, but I disagree with that. I'm not doubting that Christ can or will heal by praying this way, I'm just wanting to be in His will and not assuming that He will heal every single person I pray for. Praying in the words of expectant healing, while biblical, can begin to blur the lines of arrogance if we're not careful in my opinion; something I most certainly do not feel when I'm standing at His throne. Don't get me wrong, if the Spirit is leading you to pray for someone in some particular way, then let Him use you. My point though is that I believe these are more the exceptions than the rule.

This whole concept reminds me of times when I get an e-mail that is signed off, "Thanks in Advance". Isn't that a way of saying, thanks for doing what I'm asking you to do because I'm not giving you another option? I feel like that's what I say to God when I pray that way, "Thanks in advance" to the "Holy, Holy, Holy" God of the Universe.

I just think we need to make sure it is Spirit led and not ritualistic or of the flesh. I love prayer requests (distribution lists and all), prayer meetings, and one-on-one individualized prayer. I just think we need to do more seeking of His will in prayer than assuming it, and that's what I feel we can do sometimes if we're not careful.

Seeking His Will,


Anonymous said...

Good article!! My two cents would be that we are always to pray knowing his will (not ours) be done. As a child when we asked our earthly father for something, he sometimes said "NO" knowing the long term effects of our request were not going to be good. It may sound kinda simpleton, but I just trust my heavenly Father to answer in his will, what is best. And - Always in thanksgiving!

Matthew said...

Thanks for your comments. In my journey on this topic I also read two quotes that I thought I'd share as well. The first is just from a fellow blogger (Allen) who asked the question on the flipside: "If God is 'not' sovereign, then 'why' would we pray?" ... after all, if why would we even want to pray to someone who doesn't control all ... interesting thought. Also, and I apologize for using him so much but C.S. Lewis had an interesting quote on this as well:

"I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God, it changes me." — C.S. Lewis

Anyway, thanks for stopping by, and may He continue to bless and guide you on your journey! :)

Your brother in Christ,

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