I’ve told you what I believe about prayer; now let’s look at the flip side. Here are four things I don’t believe prayer is.
1. I don’t believe prayer is about the right words.
You’ve heard people pray who use words with eloquence and forcefulness in ways that draw more attention to themselves than God. Sometimes they make you feel that your simple prayers aren’t good enough. They especially make you feel insecure to pray aloud. But prayer is NOT about the words. It’s about the heart. On the other hand, all I can use to communicate what is in my heart is my words. When I am using the best words I know to use to say what is on my heart, I have God’s ear. It doesn’t matter if no one else is listening.
2. I don’t believe prayer is about getting my way about something.
I don’t need prayer if all I want is to get my way about something. I can do things my way without adding any prayer to it. But that’s not what people want when they try to use prayer to get their way. They want God to agree that their way is the best way. That’s backwards. Prayer is my counseling time with God. He wants to help me get past my one way to see things. God will help me unload my way of thinking so He
has a fresh slate to write on my heart what He knows is best.
3. I don’t believe prayer is a selfish way to change people the way you want them to be.
This is probably my most important lesson about prayer. My prayer to change the stubborn, insensitive heart of someone who is giving me a hard time is not my prayer to pray. That’s their prayer. My prayer is that God will change my self-centered, insensitive, stubborn heart to be more open to someone else’s woundedness or need. My problem is that I don’t pray that prayer enough. The other one is too easy.
4. I don’t believe prayer enlightens God.
Who am I to change God’s mind about something? He sees the before, present, and after with regards to some event or circumstance. He can’t unsee truth. I only see what’s right before my eyes. Or I see how I perceive it. So I don’t waste my time trying to get God to agree with me how some circumstance needs to change. I pray to be open to what God wants me to see. While I may rehearse what I understand, even respectfully request what I want; I know in the end that what I want more than anything is what God wants for me. I don’t want to change His mind about giving that to me. Not ever.
While I use these lessons to shape my prayers, one truth always covers me with her all-knowing acceptance—that I can’t pray wrong. It’s true. If I pray with a burning desire to hear God’s heart, I can’t pray wrong. I can say what I need to say, ask what I must, rant or ramble; as long as I come to the place of perfect stillness and listen to what my God of unfailing love wants to tell me. Whatever it takes to get me there, He has the time and heart for it. That’s my salvation. And that’s what brings me back to Him again and again. He gets me like no one else. Prayer becomes my refuge, my green pasture, my still water. Nowhere else shares more comfort, more truth, or more transformation.
And that’s why I keep praying.