By Allen White
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:7-8
In just over 20 years of ministry, I have found myself often designated as the “professional pray-er.” When the food arrives, all heads turn toward me, and I do my thing. What I’ve learned over the years is that prayers for food should be short. Not recitation “God is great…” But, grateful prayers, sometimes humorous, but most of all short. Once I prayed a three sentence prayer for a funeral dinner. All of the bereaved broke into applause.
Does this mean that I am better than other people or that I’m more spiritual? No, I’m certainly not. I do have the brevity thing down, so if you struggle in that area, please take note. Our food is getting cold.
The volume of words is not nearly as convincing to God as our sincerity. There is no time limit on prayer. We should pray as long as we need to, just not more than we need to. After all, God already knows what we need.
Now, here’s a tricky one – if God already knows what we need, then why do we need to ask in the first place? Is He just holding out until we say, “gimme”?
1. Sometimes we don’t know what we need.
Just because God knows what we need doesn’t mean that we know what we need. In fact, sometimes the things we ask of God would actually be to our detriment.
My kids love candy. They also want everything that’s advertised on television. They can even recite the commercials. Who knew that kids could become so excited about Wonder Hangers? But, wait, the order also includes Benda Hangers. They don’t need either.
God knows what we need (and what we don’t need). If I’ve learned anything in nearly 40 years of being a Christian, it’s this: Give up more quickly. Ask God for His help earlier in the process. Just say, “God I can’t figure this out. I need your help. I don’t know what to do.” That is a prayer that God answers every time.
2. God is a Gentleman.
God isn’t going to force anything on us that we are not ready to accept. God knows what we need. God knows better than we do what’s best. But, God doesn’t barge into our lives uninvited. When we are willing and open to His help, then He intervenes. Until then, He patiently waits.
3. Answered prayer builds our faith.
If God just acted on our behalf apart from prayer, we might assume that our circumstances were just dumb luck. But, when we ask God and He answers, our faith increases. Now, God’s answers come in three varieties: Yes, No and Wait. The yeses are far more exciting, but more often the No’s and the Wait’s do more to build our faith.
What are you babbling about these days? What worries are nagging at you and just won’t go away? Are you ready to give up and let God take over? Please understand, you’ll have to keep giving it over to God as long as you keep taking it back.