Praying In Times of Need
The Difference Between Need and Greed
We have to constantly ask ourselves before we go to God with petitions, whether they are driven by need or greed. We are in a society that is so much powered by greed than need. To our shame, we tend to ever go before God always wanting more. Do you find it hard to be satisfied with what you have? Then you know what I am talking about – I wish I lived in this or that estate, or had this or that car or I wish I could get promoted or I had a Doctorate etc. sadly this has taken its toll on our prayers! You will discover that you often turn to God with grossly selfish requests. We must learn to examine our motives as we make our requests to God… we should request what we need.
“…Give us this day our daily bread…” (Matthew 6:11)
Read James 4:3 on motives
We may bring any requests but be careful not to bring selfish requests. Hoe do we guard against greed in our prayers? Contentment with God’s provision – for contentment extinguishes greed (Read 1 Timothy 6:6-10). Contentment is here contrasted with the a deep desire for the things of this world. People who are contented appreciate what the Lord has given them. We must not only fight away covetousness, but also be appreciative of what the Lord has provided for us.
Do we try to change God through prayer? Are our requests intended to compel Him to act in ways He did not already intend? Since God is unchanging, why do we bother to pray at all? Whenever we ask God to grant something we need, we are asking Him in effect to direct the events of the world.
1) Petitions do not certainly change God
God has a comprehensive and unchangeable plan for His creation. His designs for history have been set and cannot be altered: Proverbs 16:4; Isaiah 46:9-10; Job 23:13-14
Clearly our petitions cannot interrupt God’s plan for the universe any more than a trampoline can break the power of gravity to reach the moon! What benefits do we derive in this knowledge? This means that even when going through all sorts of difficulties, even from the devil himself we can take solace in the knowledge that our holy God has ordained the events of history for our good and His eternal glory (Romans 8:28)
2) Prayers are ordained by God Himself as a means of moving Him to action! (We must always achieve the balance of both)
Why pray when God already knows and controls everything? Why go to a doctor? Why work? Why evangelize? God’s plan is so comprehensive that it not only includes the final destinies of things but al so includes the secondary, creaturely processes that work together to accomplish these ends. God did not only ordain light but He also created the sun and the moon! God does not just ordain that someone will recover from sickness but has given medical knowledge, doctors and medication to accomplish the healing. God has established these creaturely actions as vital creaturely means for accomplishing His purposes. Prayer is one of the secondary causes through which God fulfils His Plans. So we should be careful not to neglect prayer.
See the example of Moses’s prayer in Exodus 32 after God had already said that He was going to annihilate the Israelites for being so stiff necked. And yet the Lord relented from what He had intended to do.
Expectations and resignation
What kinds of expectations may we have when we make requests to God? Will He give us what we want or not? Some tell you that “Believe with your whole heart as you pray and you will get it” True or false? Others will tell you, “Trust in the will of God. Pray not for your will but for God’s will, and trust Him to do the right thing.” Which one is true? We have to learn that faith requires humble trust in God, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not in your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Prov. 3:5-6) Our desire should be to see the will of God done – your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt 6:10) Our greatest desire should be to see the will of God realized in the affairs of humanity as it is in the perfection of heaven. The example of Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is also instructive:
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” Matthew 26:42
Why did Jesus pray like this when we knew that it was predetermined plan? Even when we know that predicted this sad occurrence so many times? We must not be prayer less into a state of fatalism and Jesus’ prayer teaches this in the loudest way possible. Can a true believer pray like this, “God, You already know everything and you have the power to do everything, I therefore do not need to present any request to you – please take care of it. Amen!” NO in times of trouble we go before the Lord with serious consideration and seek His help.
We must work towards enthusiastic prayerfulness, rather than resign to weak or prayerless attitude. Contrary to the attitude of resignation, Jesus taught that prayer involves expectation as well:
See John 14:13-14 & 16:23, James 1:5; 1 John 3:22. Others think that simply repeating in their prayer, “…in Jesus’ Name…” will make their needs to be met. Prayer in Christ’s name is more than repeating a formula. It involves a whole-hearted communion with him in which the believer is conformed to Christ and His purposes: John 15:7. What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ Name? It is to pray in harmony with Him, seeking His intercession and submitting to Him as Lord. Christ does not assure us that all our petitions will be granted when we pray in certain method, rather He teaches that those requests that are in accordance with His Name, that is, His holy character as our intercessor, will be granted by the Father in His own wisdom.
Despite our good motives and high hopes, much of what we pray for simply does not materialize. We may want people to be converted, career advancements, healing from afflictions and even believe with the whole of our hearts. Yet these hopes are not fulfilled. God chooses to say no. how can we avoid severe disappointments in these situations? What expectations can we have as we pray? Expectation in prayer operates on two basic levels:
1) We must always maintain a general confidence in the goodness of God (Psalm 34:8)
2) God will particularly show His goodness to His people (Psalm 73:1)
Since God is good we should always expect His responses to be good. (Psalm 25:7; Matt. 7:7-11) Caution: to affirm that God always does good is not to say that all of God’s responses will seem good to us. Often the perfect actions of Go can appear to be less than good from the human point of view… a prayer for recovery of a sick one who ends up dead, a country praying for peace ending up in violence or war. In all these situations we must recognize that human limitations and biases can skew our perceptions so that we do not see the reality. We can also have confidence in prayer also to take a form of compelling certainty that particular things will be granted as the Holy Spirit works in us to give us a level of this conviction. Beware also of too much confidence.