This past weekend, I drove down with one of my best friends (Lisa) to visit my brother and his roommate (David) in Indy. We stayed at his apartment and drank gatorade and sweet tea. HOMEMADE sweet tea. Delicious and reminds me of the south 🙂
We ate at Jimmy John’s, met with a realtor to check out a pretty sweet house, watched brother play a video game (in which he “let” the Celtics lose to Miami Heat), went to a bonfire where they cooked chili over a fire and made s’mores with Reese’s cups, then we went back to the apartment and stayed up late talking (as in, David was out by 1am, Lisa slept by 3am, and brother and I finally stopped talking at 5am). The next day we went to my future home church (hopefully) and ate at Yats–Cajun deliciousness…actually, I had a Thai dish but it was equally delicious–, then we went to a cupcake shop. Yum.
On the way back, Lisa and I got into a pretty deep discussion about hopes, dreams, and prayer. Basically, what do you do when you know what you want but you’re worried about praying for it since there’s always a chance your hopes will be crushed (haha…adding the dramatic flair). But really. Is it better to pray and constantly throw in the whole “if it’s Your will” phrase every other sentence, which tends to make it seem like I’m praying and preparing myself for it not to happen. Or is it better to pray and really believe it’s going to happen, even if that means you’re getting your hopes up and could potentially end up super disappointed?
I say the second is better, even though my tendency is to pray the first way. Here’s how I picture the first way: me wearing a cape, with one hand out and the other hand covering my eyes. The hand out represents the part of me that thinks God will give me what I’m praying for. The hand on my eyes represents me attempting to ignore the other hand so I don’t get my hopes up or my hopes shattered based on whether God gives me something in my open hand. The cape represents the fact that I’m ready to go off and attempt to get it for myself or move on to other things I can do by myself.
That’s how I pray sometimes: hesitatingly, doubtful, and planning for the worst.
This is how I see the other scenario: kneeling with outstretched arms and eyes focused on Jesus.
That’s how I want to pray all the time: submitted, receptive, and looking at the best (Jesus).
So that’s my goal, friends. I’m trying to pray earnestly, believing that God will answer my prayer the way I want, and trusting Him completely. Trusting that He is able and will give me what I want, but knowing that even if He chooses not to answer that way, I won’t lose my focus because my eyes were always on Him, not the gift.
I think sometimes we get caught up in extremes. We either pray so fervently and get so focused on getting the gift, that we’re completely blindsided and troubled if God chooses to answer another way. Or we go the other extreme and pray so vaguely for God’s will to be done and focus on preparing ourselves for not getting the gift, that we never experience the joy of trusting God completely and seeing Him answer a specific prayer. Neither extreme is good.
I think Kevin DeYoung says it really well in his book Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will. A few excerpts:
- “The only chains God wants us to wear are the chains of righteousness–not the chains of hopeless subjectivism, not the shackles of risk-free living, not the fetters of horoscope decision making–just the chains befitting a bond servant of Christ Jesus. Die to self. Live for Christ. And then do what you want, and go where you want, for God’s glory.”
- “So go marry someone, provided you’re equally yoked and you actually like being with each other. Go get a job, provided it’s not wicked. Go live somewhere in something with somebody or nobody. But put aside the passivity and the quest for complete fulfillment and the perfectionism and the preoccupation with the future, and for God’s sake start making some decisions in your life. Don’t wait for the liver-shiver. If you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will be in God’s will, so just go out and do something.”
- “We walk into the future in God-glorifying confidence, not because the future is known to us but because it is known to God. And that’s all we need to know. Worry about the future is not simply a character tic, it is the sin of unbelief, an indication that our hearts are not resting in the promises of God.”
Good stuff, right?!
So yeah, take that to heart when you pray. It really brings peace to be able to pray specifically rather than vaguely. When we talk to our friends, we give specifics. We say why we like the job, the name of the apartment we want to rent, the characteristics of that person you like. We don’t present our hopes and dreams to our friends by prefacing it with “if it’s your will, I hope you rejoice with me” (or maybe you do…if that’s the case, you gotta get some new friends)…we essentially tell our friends “This is what I want. Get excited with me!”
So why do we forget that God is SO MUCH GREATER than our friends? He not only rejoices with us, but He also gives us those things for us to rejoice over!
“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness;
He will quiet you by his love;
He will exult over you with loud singing.”
We don’t need to be afraid of telling Him specifically what we want! There is no fear or condemnation in Christ!
“By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before Him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do what pleases Him.”
-1 John 3:19-22
As long as you’re not praying for something that clearly goes against God’s will as revealed in the Bible, you have all the freedom in the world to pray expectantly.
Expect an answer. Embrace hope. Experience joy.
And keep your eyes on Jesus the whole time. He is the ultimate answer. He is the ultimate reason for our hope. He is the ultimate source of all joy.