When I was young, I prayed for lots of things. I prayed for a new bicycle. For a new car. For new parents, once or twice. For a new saxophone, a new computer, better grades, more friends, better looks, some awesomely cute girl to like me. Or notice me.
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And more times than not, these prayers felt unanswered. I didn't get the things I asked for.
I'm no theologian, but I think it's because these were incredibly selfish prayers.
The times that I prayed for others, for them to get through some trial, or help from grief, or success in business, or relationships or whatever it might have been, those prayers always seemed to get answered in the affirmative, even if I only recognized it when I looked back across time.
Hmmm. God must really like it when my prayers aren't about me!
So I'm trying to change the way I pray.
I'm not saying I don't pray for things for myself, but 99% of the time, when I turn those prayers toward myself, there are now only two things for which I pray:
- Knowledge of God's will. I'm a bit thick some time, so the path in front of me often isn't as clear as it might be to others. It's also tempting to want to pray for "a speedy recovery" or a financial windfall. But that's asking God to do something that I want, which to my thinking runs counter to the whole idea of prayer. By asking God to simply reveal His will to me, and to smack me upside the head with it, I'm trying not to dictate the terms, just asking for the map.
- The strength to carry it out. Knowing what God wants from me and having the strength to do it aren't both essential. Quite often, my strength alone isn't going to be enough to get me through the steps that are in front of me. That's where strength comes in. And yes, part of it is the strength to not turn around and impose my great ideas anyway.
Knowledge of His will, and the strength to carry it out. That's my several-times-a-day selfish prayer. Everything else I pray about during the day largely focuses on others. I'm not perfect, but my goal is to pray everything for others, and only these two things for myself, no matter what situation I'm facing or what trials I'm in.
Strength and knowledge. That's all I'm asking, Lord.
Have you seen a difference in outcomes when your prayers are directed outward rather than inward? Leave a comment and tell us about it!