For any relationship to not only survive, but thrive, communication must be at the center of it. No matter where you are in your relationship with Jesus Christ, the need for communication is a fact that you will need to come to terms with. When we first enter into God’s Kingdom, we struggle with prayer. We feel inadequate and ill-equipped to talk with God. We don’t know what to say and often feel we can’t express ourselves. As we grow in Christ, praying becomes second nature, but we can fall into patterns and rituals which really deny the reason for communication.
As we learn about prayer, we often hear people’s opinions or thoughts on the subject. Some are good, and some are not so good. But we know that we want effectual, powerful communication with God. We see the examples of Jesus’ prayer life: from the Lord’s prayer, to his prayer for his disciples, to the times and places that he prayed, and his instruction on prayer for his followers.
Several years ago I was challenged about the way that I pray. I was told that when I pray, I should not use the word “but”. For instance, if I was praying for someone’s healing I might say, “Father, touch them and heal their body, but if not, then give the doctors the wisdom to care for their needs.” To the person that was challenging me, this seemed to be in direct violation of James 1:6-7, which states that when someone prays they “must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave on the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.” This person believed when I prayed this way, I was praying in part with the belief that either God couldn’t, or wouldn’t, do what I asked.
This started to create a conflict in me, and I avoided praying in public because I didn’t want to appear double-minded. Yet I also knew that God didn’t always answers my prayers the way I asked Him to, no matter how I prayed. This led to a serious study on how to pray in faith.
What happens when I ask God to move a certain way and I have faith that he will, but he doesn’t? Is it because I’m not praying correctly, or is his will different from mine?
In my study, I came across two specific examples that have really helped me develop a “Prayer of Faith”. The first is in Daniel 3:16-18. The story unfolds with King Nebuchadnezzar ordering a golden statue to be built and for all the people to bow down and worship it. Three young Israelites who had been taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar refused and faced the penalty of death in a fiery furnace. In these verses, the young men basically respond by saying to the King, “We KNOW our God can save us from the flames, BUT EVEN IF HE DOES NOT, we will serve him alone and not bow down to your idol.”
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego knew that God was more than capable to save them from the king’s punishment, but they also knew that God might not. They had comes to terms with the fact that God’s plan may look different than theirs, but it didn’t matter. Now that is faith! To them, the end result didn’t matter as long as it was God’s will. This was certainly not a statement of double-minded faith but of single-minded faith to proclaim that God is in control.
The second passage I found was in Luke 22:42. Jesus is moments away from the betrayal of Judas’ kiss. He knew that the reason he came to this earth was about to be realized. Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane as he thought about not only the physical pain that was to come but the emotional and spiritual pain that would come when God turned away from him as he bore our sins on the cross. Jesus asks God to “take this cup” from him. In other words, he was asking if there was another way to accomplish God’s will. However, Jesus then says, “Yet not my will be done, but yours.” Jesus is asking for something, and if anyone should know how to pray in God’s will, it’s Jesus. But His focus – just like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s – is not on what he wanted but on God’s will.
So, if Jesus is our prayer model, then what does the Prayer of Faith look like? It looks like this: “God, there is something I want and need you to do, and here’s why. BUT, above my wants, needs, and desires comes YOUR will. Whatever you do in this situation, I will choose to serve you.” When our focus goes from facing inward (what we want to see happen) to outward (wanting God’s plan and will to unfold), we will have the type of faith that leads to effective and powerful prayer.