I understand prayer about as well as I understand car repair. That is to say I might recognize some of the bigger parts, like the engine, say. But how the whole thing works? It’s totally beyond me.
Still, I pray. The illustration that has been most helpful to me in framing my prayer life is that of a small boat on a lake, tethered by a rope to the shore. We, in the boat, would be crazy to try to make the shore move to us. Instead, our job is to pull ourselves to the shore. In other words, align ourselves with God’s will and pray that way.
I’ve written before about a question that helps. In 2 Kings 19 Hezekiah prays:
“Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You alone, Lord, are God.”
I was moved by Bill Hybel’s challenge to ask ourselves, “What is the ‘so that’ of our prayers?”
It would seem like praying things “so that” God would be glorified and His kingdom would be furthered on earth would be a sure thing. God’s will, right? Well, apparently God and I aren’t on the same page on this one because He has been totally unpredictable in this department lately.
A few years ago I was moved by the need for clean water in the world. I started praying about raising money for a well.
We had just bought our first stock. Ever.
In a passionate moment of prayer I committed every penny we would earn from that stock to go towards a well so that kids in Africa could have clean water and God would be glorified. Doesn’t that seem like a prayer God would want to answer in the affirmative?
Our stock was BP. The oil spill happened a couple of weeks later. We still haven’t recovered our losses.
Still, I prayed and was committed to raising money for water. Some friends and I did a fund-raiser.
The first time I prayed and we had moderate success, but certainly not the dramatic answer I thought would honor God. Why didn’t He want to show off?
The second time, I prayed more. A lot. I did prayer walks around the place where we were going to hold the event, repeatedly asking for God’s favor so that kids could have clean water.
We had about 12 people show up and we raised $135.
“LORD!” I yelled! “What’s up with that?”
Still, I prayed. But with a lot less gusto.
Then last Sunday, after more prayer and preparation, we did a fund-raising brunch at a nearby restaurant. We raised more than $8000 and then had someone offer to give $15,000 more! Two wells, not one! Over and above. Abundance beyond my prayer.
Why? What was God’s “so that” in all this?
Isaiah 65:24 says “Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.”
Did He delay so that He could form something in me or others in this drawn out process? So that He could teach us to trust Him more? So that He could teach us perseverance?
I don’t know. Prayer is still about as foreign as car repair to me, but I’m thinking maybe God’s “so that” is more important than mine.
Do you have any experience with prayer like this?